08/07/2014 13:08 BST | Updated 09/07/2014 05:59 BST

Cancer Survivor Chose To Have Her Head Frozen So That She'd Still Have Hair After Chemo

A woman undergoing treatment for cancer endured agonising head freezing sessions to keep her hair during chemo - after her daughter begged her not to go bald.

Mum of two Shelley Cain was heartbroken when she had to tell her two children she had been diagnosed with breast cancer.

But when her tearful daughter Ruby, 10, asked her not to lose her hair Shelley, 38, opted for painful 'cold cap' treatment which stops hair loss from cancer-killing drugs by freezing the head to -4C.


Shelley had to endure three-hour sessions of the treatment, which doctors admit is hit-and-miss. It meant the HR worker kept a full head of hair and eyebrows throughout her treatment.

She also forced herself to get out of bed, get dressed and put on make-up every day so that she didn't feel like a cancer patient.

She now says it was her hardcore beauty regime which saved her life - and kept her sane throughout the process.

Shelley, also mum to Ollie, six, said: "I didn't want it to look like I was dying to my children.

"I screamed for the cancer nurse to remove the cap when she first put it on as it was unbearably cold and painful. But I was so determined to stay looking well for her kids, it got me through the pain.

"I didn't want to scare my children by looking ill and losing my hair. I wanted them to recognise their mummy and not be frightened by my appearance."

She added: "It wasn't easy, but I think it was psychosomatic.

"If I looked in the mirror and recognised myself then I didn't feel like a cancer patient, it helped me beat the cancer."

Shelley, of Hertford, married to project engineer Richard Cain, also 38, was diagnosed with cancer in her left breast in June 2013.

She tried to play the illness down to her children - but they had seen a family friend die of the condition and were "devastated".

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Doctors were positive about the diagnosis and told her she would probably just need an operation to remove the lump.

But when tests revealed cancerous tissue had been left behind, Shelley was told she would need to undergo chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

To ease the blow she promised not to lose her hair and went through the gruelling cold cap therapy, for all six of her two-hour chemotherapy sessions.

The process was so severe it left blocks of ice on her head. She also had to be really gentle with her hair and could only wash it once a week and couldn't brush it or blow dry it.

Now, eight months after her treatment, Shelley is in remission and no longer in need of treatment.

She said: "Ruby was terrified that I would lose my hair. She'd seen a cancer patient before and it really scared her that I would look that ill.

"But thanks to the cap, my kids didn't really notice any difference in me and I still read them a bedtime story every night and looked like their mummy.

"The last few chemo sessions were particularly painful but I still persevered with the cap. Psychologically, I'm sure not losing my hair and eyelashes helped me to keep my spirits up.

"More importantly, it meant the children could recognise the mummy they loved - which took away a lot of their fear."

Dr Bessam Farjo, co-founder of the Farjo Hair Institute and Medical Director of the Institute of Trichologists, said hair loss can be particularly traumatic while battling disease.

"For women, losing their hair can drastically alter their sensuality and how they perceive themselves - typically leading to a plummet in confidence," he said.

"Many women question whether their partner still finds them attractive, while others may become socially reclusive as they fear people may notice their thinning hair."