Cold capping business aims to reduce cancer hair loss

Mary Beth MacDougall & Colleen White, founders of Still Me Cold Capping

Hair loss is a common and unfortunate consequence of chemotherapy treatment for cancer patients.

Tecumseh secondary school teacher Mary Beth MacDougall was faced with the same prospect when she received a breast cancer diagnosis. She desperately wanted to keep her hair. She learned about a treatment called cold capping quite by accident through a friend who saw it depicted on a TV show.

Cold capping is an effective solution to reduce or prevent hair loss during chemotherapy treatments. It utilizes a gel-filled, helmet shaped soft cap that is kept extremely cold using dry ice. It contours to the shape of the scalp for comfort and to reach the maximum amount of hair follicles. Cold capping effectively slows down the metabolism of the hair follicle, making the hair cells dormant and preventing the absorption of the chemotherapeutic drugs.

“My oncologist told me that the kind of cancer I had was very aggressive and therefore my treatment would be very long and arduous and the likelihood of keeping my hair would not happen,” said MacDougall. “I was discouraged walking out of the office that day.’”

MacDougall ultimately decided to give cold capping a try after researching the process from YouTube videos and shipping the equipment from Toronto. She spent six months in chemotherapy, where she was the only patient using cold capping.

“When I did the research there was nothing local, nothing was available and there wasn’t any information either. You know, it was quite obscure,” said MacDougall.

MacDougall says one of the biggest challenges faced by cancer patients is the lack of awareness of cold capping, which is prevalent even within the medical community. “People should know that it’s an option because you get that diagnosis and you’re devastated,” she said.

MacDougall connected with longtime friend and registered nurse Colleen White to start Still Me Cold Capping. She was prompted to start the business after her oncologist kept referring patients to her to learn how to use cold caps. The partners knew there was a gap in the community and embarked on the process of starting a business that offered this innovative solution to those in Windsor and Essex County looking to preserve their hair during rigorous chemotherapy treatments.

MacDougall and White have pledged to provide a personal service to their customers. They offer education on how to use the cold caps and deliver the supplies directly to customers’ homes. Patients bring the cold caps to chemotherapy appointments and keep the supplies throughout the course of their treatment.

White said cold capping is up to 85 per cent effective for preventing most hair loss when used properly.

The benefit of their combined research and experience allows them to share this technology with others. The duo is making connections and spreading awareness of cold capping to local medical professionals, businesses and individuals that can benefit from the treatment.

A referral is not necessary to begin treatment, however MacDougall and White recommend individuals consult with their oncologist for best results as cold capping is not effective for all types of cancers.

MacDougall and White recently launched Still Me Cold Capping through their participation in the Starter Company PLUS program, delivered in Windsor-Essex by the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Centre (SBEC). They are grateful and amazed by the support received so far. “The SBEC was our first point of contact for guidance. We were then referred to Jeffrey Patterson, a lawyer at Miller Canfield. … Right away upon hearing our story, he said, ‘I want to be a part of this, I’m honoured to be a part of this.’ You know, they incorporated our business overnight?!” said White.

MacDougall added, “This office and then all the referrals that were given to us were so amazing.”

As for the future of Still Me Cold Capping, MacDougall and White want to connect with insurance companies and other organizations to open more doors for people interested in trying this treatment. Cold capping is a procedure that must be paid directly by the patient and isn’t currently covered by insurance.

“[Cold capping] is a lot of work but for the outcome, it’s totally worth it. Oh my God, I felt like myself the entire time. Nobody said, you look like you have cancer, ever.”

Become a client of the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Centre and receive support in launching or expanding your small business, contact us for more information.