NEW ORLEANS -- New technology has come to New Orleans to help cancer patients with a traumatic side effect of chemotherapy.
Now, some people with cancer have a proven treatment to keep them from losing their hair.
Preschool school teacher, seamstress and mother, Rosalind Ratliff is a tower of strength. First she lost everything in Hurricane Katrina.
"The family bible was lost. The pictures, my dad died when I was seven. All of that's gone," remembers Ratliff, 46, a New Orleans native.
Then doctors found a kidney condition and congestive heart failure. Later, in the E.R. at UMC to treat her heart, more tough news. She was diagnosed with advanced breast cancer.
"See, I had prayed about it before then. And I got on my knees and I said, 'God, I don't have anything to bargain with you, not a thing, but I trust you.' And this crazy calm came over me."
After a mastectomy and chemotherapy at the UMC New Orleans Cancer Center, Rosalind lost her hair.
"People staring at me, somehow it, on some level, it did bother me," she said.
And wigs in New Orleans weather didn't help.
"Them wigs was hot," she laughed. "Wigs were hot."
But now chemotherapy patients can have the latest technology to save their hair. UMC just got the first cooling cap in the state and 300 mile area. Studies show between half and two-thirds of the patients who use it, don't lose their hair.
"By cooling the scalp there's less blood flow going through the blood vessels in the scalp. Therefore, there's less chemotherapy reaching the hair follicle. But if you keep on doing the same thing again and again and again, well eventually that effect of chemotherapy builds up," explained the Chief of Hematology and Oncology at LSU health Sciences Center Dr. Agustin Garcia.
The DigniCap was FDA cleared for the chemo drugs used to treat breast cancer, but those drugs are also used for other cancers in men and women.
"If everything else is equal, (patients) will say, 'Of course I don't want to lose my hair,'" said Dr. Garcia, explaining that getting well is always first on their minds.
And even though the DigniCap was not available for Rosalind, she's ok with that. And her new hair is growing back in.
"I'm going to live right there, at the corner of peace and understanding," Ratliff said.
Each use of the cooling cap is $400 and right now insurance is not paying, but The Spirit of Charity Foundation is helping with part of the costs. They need your help with donations.
For that and information on the Spirit of Charity Foundation, click here or call (504) 702-3113