One of the most emotional moments of Peggy Dixon's career as a hair stylist is when a person recently diagnosed with cancer comes to her salon and asks to have their hair cut before chemotherapy.
The staff of Harpo's will usually arrange for a time before or after normal salon hours for the customer to come in and have their hair cut in privacy. Most of the time, Dixon will give women a short pixie cut - just enough so that they do not have a traumatic experience of losing large chunks of hair in the shower.
For some patients, seeing that much hair fall to the ground is the second-most emotional part of being diagnosed with cancer.
"There is nothing worse than chopping their hair off," Dixon said. "There are so many emotions that come out when they see the hair fall to the ground. They think they're prepared for it, but they're really not."
That's why Harpo's is leading the way in funding local cold cap therapy, which prevents hair loss in 86 percent of non-blood-borne cancer patients, according to a study in the European Journal of Cancer. Cold cap treatment is not effective for blood-borne cancers like leukemia and lymphoma.
Cold cap therapy involves a special frozen cap that is worn for a period of time before, during and after each chemotherapy ttreatment. The cooling of the hair follicles prevents chemotherapy from reaching them, preserving the patient's hair.
The treatment is not approved by the Federal Drug Administration, but has been used in Europe for more than a decade and is in clinical trials in the U.S. Cold cap therapy recently received media attention on Good Morning America and in O Magazine.
This month, Harpo's hopes to raise $5,000 for The Rapunzel Project, which will use the funds to purchase a special cold cap freezer that can maintain the required temperature of 22 degrees below zero. They are talking with a Columbia St. Mary’s nurse about placing the freezer at the hospital, but they are willing to work with any chemotherapy center in the Milwaukee area.
To raise funds, Harpo’s sold mimosas Saturday, and this weekend, they will be selling bake sale treats. On the weekend of Oct. 20 and 21, Harpo’s will be holding a pumpkin decorating event. They are also forwarding all proceeds from their pink hair feathers to The Rapunzel Project.
Everyone who donates to the Rapunzel Project will be entered into a drawing for two gift baskets with products from hair product vendors and several businesses on Silver Spring Drive.
Harpo's was introduced to The Rapunzel Project by Kenra, an Indiana-based hair product company. Kenra regional manager Alison Bailey-Gouge said other salons across the nation have also joined the fight against hair loss from chemotherapy.
"It's a neat way for the salon to partner with the community in a way that helps people during chemotherapy treatment," Bailey-Gouge said. "So much is being taken away from them already, and when you hear that you are going to lose your hair, it is such a traumatic thing for them to hear. With cold cap therapy and The Rapunzel Project, they can keep their hair and feel better."