DigniCap Allows Minnesota Mom to Look Like Herself During Cancer Treatment
The choice was never about vanity – it was about looking like herself during cancer treatment.
Lisa Jensen is a native of Minnetrista, Minn., a city on the western edge of the Twin Cities. She faced some challenges in her life, with a divorce, a move and her daughter starting high school.
Things were on an upswing when she got what she called the “dreaded call back” after a 3-D mammogram exam in March.
“I had met someone, my daughter and I had completed our move – things were really looking up. Then I got the diagnosis of breast cancer,” said the 46-year-old. “When you’re told you have cancer, you can’t think straight or do a lot of things.”
One thing Lisa considered before anything else was her 15-year-old daughter starting high school. Lisa wanted that important experience to be all about her daughter and the memories she’d make – she didn’t want it to be remembered as “the year my mom got cancer.”
She realized would face a lot of changes, challenges and fear. She was bolstered by the love and support of many friends, including Terri Miller, herself a breast cancer survivor, as well as friends Karen Burmeister, Jenny Kohrman and Chris Parker. Her fiancé, Peter King, was by her side, every hour, every day. Together, they all kept her going throughout the process.
“Having that strong support through this process was very important to me,” Lisa said. “Of course my mother was vital to me as well.”
When her mother, Pat Maund, happened to see a segment on television about a device called the DigniCap®, a technology that can help patients facing chemotherapy treatment keep their hair, it seemed like a meaningful sign - something that could truly help her in the face of this new reality.
DigniCap is the first and only FDA-approved scalp-cooling system for cancer patients. Pat and Lisa began to do research, and it led them, surprisingly, to South Dakota.
“When she said there was a cancer facility that had DigniCap in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, I was like ‘Huh?’ – I mean I had been to South Dakota, but it was 30 years ago. I remembered Mount Rushmore and the Badlands, but that was about it,” she said. “I think none of us were sure what we’d find that first day we drove down.”
What Lisa, Peter, her friend Terri Miller and her mother found brought a chorus of “wows” from the group as they walked into the Prairie Center, home of Avera Cancer Institute in Sioux Falls.
“It wasn’t like anything I had experienced with my previous cancer care – the feeling I had from my first step in the door was of being uplifted. It was pretty and peaceful and there were three women at the front door, all smiling at us as we arrived,” she said. “I knew right away we had made the right choice.”
Lisa met with Amy Krie, MD, Avera Medical Group medical oncologist, who walked her through the additional steps that would accompany her chemotherapy with the DigniCap device. By cooling the scalp’s hair follicles, patients facing chemotherapy who use the machine can keep up to 70 percent of their hair.
“I didn’t want to look bad and then feel bad about how I looked, or to have people stare or feel pity,” she said. “DigniCap let me stay more positive than I would have without it. I got to look like me – even on the worst days.”
Lisa wore the DigniCap for one to two hours prior to her treatment, during her chemotherapy itself and then for another one to two hours after, but she said it was certainly worth the extra time – and the travel from home to Sioux Falls.
“I followed the advice Dr. Krie gave me to a T. I have long hair, and it’s a bit thinner now, but I didn’t lose it,” Lisa said. “It made this whole process easier for me because I felt ‘normal.’ It’s hard for me to put into words how much it helped me – a million times over.”
When she finished her chemotherapy with Avera Cancer Institute in Sioux Falls, she returned to the Twin Cities and continued radiation therapy there, all while her platoon of friends kept her positive.
She ended up surprising many of her doctors and nurses.
“I have had 30 rounds of radiation, and my oncologist said he’s always so glad to see me because of my smile – about how upbeat I have stayed – and almost no one can believe I had chemotherapy because of my hair,” she said. “We were surprised it wasn’t available in Minnesota – and so glad we were able to find Avera – it’s made a tremendous difference in our lives.”