WHO 13 NEWS — For cancer patients one of the most difficult parts of the journey is learning that they will lose their hair.
But there’s something they can try to save their hair, called cold capping.
“My family and I decided I would do cold caps during chemotherapy,” Calyn Thompson explained, “and that’s basically when you have an ice pack on your head to freeze the hair follicles so that it doesn’t fall out.”
They sound simple, but actually doing cold caps takes a lot of work. Not to mention they’re expensive and not covered by insurance.
“Chemotherapy is not easy, but adding that layer just makes it that much more difficult,” Calyn said.
Calyn’s dad made sure the caps were cold enough, and her mom made sure they were in place.
“It was a two-person job to get these ice pack helmets on my head every 20 minutes for the duration of treatment,” Calyn said.
And they kept going for four hours after the chemo treatment ended, not knowing if it was even working.
“I still lost some hair,” Calyn said. “I feel like I lost a sense of myself.”
Thankfully, a different part of Calyn’s “cancer team” was there to help fill in what she lost.
Jack Morlan has been doing hair for 51 years, for the last 40 he’s helped women find wigs.
“The Lord knew that I was going to help women with cancer,” Morlan said.
He owns Studio 409, the place Calyn went to find her wig before her cancer treatment started. The goal at her appointment was to find something that looked like her, but others might want something a little different.
It’s not a job Morlan expected to do.
“Well, you’re sort of a counselor, a doctor,” Morlan said. “That’s what I started out to do years ago was go to medical school to be a doctor and so I ended up here being a doctor of hair.”
It’s one that allows him to help. He estimates in 40 years he’s helped around 20,000 people.
Morlan understands how hard it is for all those women to sit in his chair.
“The main thing is that we have to make them feel comfortable,” Morlan said, “because hair is very important to a woman and their look is very important. When they know they’re going to lose their hair, they feel like they’re going to lose their identity.”
He saw it firsthand, when one of his sisters was diagnosed with cancer.
“My sister 40 years ago was my first client and the one that pushed me into doing this,” Morlan said. “And I thank her all the time because she saw the need and knew the need being in the medical community.”
And that need remains, as one of his other sisters is now going through treatment too.
“Cancer is a very nasty thing for life,” Morlan said. “But you know, we have results to help people look and feel better through this.”
The wigs may have changed, but Morlan’s goal has always stayed the same.
“I was brought up to take care of people,” Morlan said. “And it gives me great joy to make someone smile and that they’re happy with what they see in the mirror.”
Morlan is able to help even more women thanks to Strands of Strength, an organization started by a cancer survivor that provides free wigs to cancer patients in need.
Since it started in 2012, they’ve donated more than 4,200 wigs across Iowa.
Click here to watch the full interview with the Strands of Strength Founder Deb Pulver.