East Tennessee woman beats breast cancer, uses ‘cold caps’ to keep hair

Ashley Merrick uses ‘cold caps’ during chemo to keep her hair.
Published: Oct. 5, 2022 at 7:16 PM EDT|Updated: Oct. 5, 2022 at 7:19 PM EDT
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - Losing hair can be a traumatic side effect of chemotherapy for cancer patients.

An East Tennessee woman found a way to keep hers from falling out. She underwent several rounds of chemotherapy, radiation, surgery, and never lost her hair. Now, she wants to tell people how she did it.

Ashley Merrick of Maryville was diagnosed with stage two breast cancer in August of 2021. Since then, she’s undergone surgery, six rounds of chemotherapy, and 28 rounds of radiation.

Despite all of that, “I never looked sick,” said Merrick. “I felt sick, obviously. But I was able to keep all of my hair through cold capping.”

Merrick had never heard of cold capping before her diagnosis. It’s a head wrap that you can wear during chemo treatments.

Merrick said it’s negative 30 degrees when you put it on your head and you keep it on for your entire chemo treatment, basically freezing your hair follicles.

“It’s not for everyone. It’s hard, it’s expensive,” she said.

Merrick said it cost about $380 per month for the caps, but some insurance companies will pitch in.

Using the cold caps was something Merrick wanted to do. She said she’s very proud of her red hair, and she wanted to keep the experience as normal as possible for herself, and for her family.

“I didn’t want to be reminded every time I looked in the mirror I was sick,” said Merrick. “I didn’t want my husband to be reminded. I also just didn’t want to go out in public and have people know, oh she’s sick, she lost all of her hair.”

Merrick is now cancer-free and is partnering with Capping Partners of America to raise awareness for the therapy. She encouraged you to ask your doctor about it first.

But Merrick’s advocacy is two-fold. She was diagnosed with breast cancer at 38 years old, which is on the younger side. Most women begin getting mammograms at age 40. Mercedes Ringgold, the CEO and Executive Director of the United Cancer Support Foundation said it’s never too early to get screened.

“We have noticed through research that the age has actually become more between 25 and 35,” said Ringgold.

She said that’s according to the American Cancer Society.

After being diagnosed at 38 years old, Merrick agreed that it’s never a bad idea to get screened early, because it just might save your life.