In the spring of 2019, a routine mammogram revealed that Cathie Jackson had an aggressive form of breast cancer that would require immediate action—first a mastectomy followed by 12 rounds of chemotherapy. As a longtime Winchester resident with deep community roots and an ardent supporter of her hometown hospital, Cathie knew she wanted to keep her care local if possible.
Cathie’s diagnostic testing, surgery, and care planning was managed at Winchester Hospital. She was referred to Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston to undergo chemotherapy, and there she participated in a clinical trial focused on women over the age of 70 with breast cancer. The trial gave her access to a new scalp cooling therapy, developed to help prevent or reduce hair loss caused by chemotherapy. “Like a lot of women, the thought of losing my hair was one of the more difficult things to accept about my diagnosis,” says Cathie. “When you lose your hair, people immediately know you’re sick and start treating you differently—even if you wear a wig or head covering. It’s a constant reminder of your cancer. As someone who doesn’t like to be coddled, the scalp cooling therapy helped me a great deal.”
Much research has shown that scalp cooling technology can minimize or prevent hair loss by narrowing the blood vessels and reducing the amount of chemotherapy that reaches the hair follicles, though success is not guaranteed. In Cathie’s case, the therapy worked perfectly, and she was able to maintain a full head of hair. Upon successfully completing her treatment—she has been cancer-free ever since—Cathie made it her mission to bring scalp cooling therapy to Winchester Hospital’s Center for Cancer Care. “I didn’t want other women to have to experience the same physically and psychologically draining trip into the city for this treatment that I did,” says Cathie, who has been actively involved in fundraising efforts.
Three years later, after some delays related to the pandemic, her tenacity is about to pay off. Winchester Hospital has acquired two Paxman Cold Cap Scalp Cooling Systems, which will be used immediately before, during, and after patients receive chemotherapy. The system works by cooling the scalp via a custom-fitted “cold cap.” Initial funds to launch the program were provided by the Winton Club, a volunteer organization associated with Winchester Hospital, where Cathie has been a member for more than three decades. The group has supported a wide variety of programs and initiatives over the past century, including A Caring Place, a boutique that assists patients with cancer in finding properly fitting bras, wigs, head coverings, and prosthetics; it will expand services to provide cold cap fittings in the near future.
At present, scalp cooling therapy is extremely costly and not covered by health insurance, which makes additional philanthropic support essential to sustaining the program and expanding access over time. “I am so fortunate to be one of 100,000 patients in 50 countries who have benefited from this treatment,” says Cathie. “It’s personal to me, and that’s why it’s so deeply rewarding to bring this technology to our Winchester Hospital community. I couldn’t be more grateful to all the generous donors who helped make this happen.”
For more information on Winchester Hospital’s new scalp cooling therapy program, or if you are interested in making a gift, please contact Denise Flynn, Vice President of Philanthropy at 781.756.2155 or by email.