Aug. 25, 2018 is a day Kasha Wasylak will never forget; it was the day the 26-year-old bride happily said, “I do,” to her now-husband, Patrick. Standing confidently in front of her family and friends, the ceremony not only solidified a lifetime commitment, but it also brought closure to what had been a turbulent and uncertain year.
The young mother and soon-to-be bride was diagnosed with HER2-positive breast cancer soon after discovering a lump in her breast. “I was devastated,” recalls Wasylak. “I just finished taking my engagement photos, and it felt like my whole world was coming apart.”
Wasylak immediately began treatment at the Susan F. Smith Center for Women’s Cancers at Dana-Farber under the care of Ann Partridge, MD, MPH, founder and director of the Young and Strong Program for Young Women with Breast Cancer.
In between Partridges’ treatment plan which included chemotherapy, and a bilateral mastectomy, Wasylak was also planning her wedding. Knowing she would likely lose her hair to chemotherapy, she was wary of walking down the aisle with all eyes on her. In fact, the only thing that prevented her from postponing her wedding was a conversation with nurse practitioner, Lauren Czapla.
She introduced Wasylak to Dana-Farber’s scalp cooling system. Liquid coolant is pushed through a cold cap- a fitted cap with a neoprene cover to trap the cold air inside – in order to reduce blood flow to the cells that produce hair which may protect them from chemotherapy.
“This can be a great tool as it allows patients to maintain privacy around diagnosis, and helps with self-esteem and body image,” Czapla says. “But it’s important to give patients realistic expectations because it doesn’t always work well, and it isn’t compatible with all chemotherapy.”
Wasylak was willing to give it a shot. She wore her cold cap before each chemotherapy session for 30 minutes, and then for another hour following. While the solution wasn’t perfect – she was able to keep roughly 60 percent of her hair- it still left her feeling confident to keep the wedding on its originally scheduled date.
“My cancer diagnosis didn’t take away from the wedding I had pictured, and I was so excited about that,” says Wasylak.
“I’m glad the cold cap was available to her because I know how concerned she was leading up to our wedding,” adds Kasha’s husband, Patrick. “I didn’t even notice the hair loss, she looked like a queen full of beautiful hair.”
Now in remission, the young mother and wife splits her time between work and chasing around her two-year-old daughter, Alexa. When she has a moment to spare, Wasylak says she’ll steal away to ski her favorite mountain, Okemo, in Ludlow, Vt.