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Fife cancer patients form ‘unbreakable bond’ sharing hair-saving device during chemotherapy

Lesley-Ann and Hanniffia.
Lesley-Ann and Hanniffia.

Two Fife women having treatment for cancer formed an ‘unbreakable bond’ as they shared a hair-saving device they are now fundraising to replace.

Lesley-Ann Chessor and Hanniffia McGrath met at the chemotherapy unit at Queen Margaret Hospital in Dunfermline when they both started treatment for breast cancer.

Despite both living in Crossford, Fife, they had never met before, but after sitting next to each other to use the cold cap machine they formed a friendship that has turned into a lifelong bond.

Speaking about their friendship, Lesley-Ann told The Courier it helped to have someone going through the same experience with cancer.

Fife women form ‘unbreakable bond’ on chemotherapy unit

She says: “It was great for Hanniffia and I to have each other.

“Not only did we sit next to each other for treatment it turns out we actually live in the same village, so we were able to easily meet up for a cuppa in between treatments.”

The pair met using the unit’s cold cap device, sitting next to each other throughout their treatment.

Prior to her treatment Lesley-Ann also had surgery, and her five-year-old daughter was worried about her losing her hair.

“My little girl, in particular, said she didn’t want me to lose my hair, and I knew the cold cap was potentially an option so I wanted to give it a go,” Lesley-Ann said.

Lesley-Ann before her diagnosis.

“I have quite a big head, so unfortunately the cap didn’t touch my whole scalp, so I lost a lot but where it touched I kept a lot.

“I kept enough hair to make it look like I hadn’t lost my hair.”

Hannffia also benefitted from using the machine, but the pair noticed that it was out of date and there were sometimes problems using it.

Lesley-Ann, who has stage three breast cancer, said there were times it wouldn’t drop to a low enough temperature, so she and Hanniffia have now launched a fundraiser to help NHS Fife purchase a replacement.

Over £7,000 raised

“The machines are old and really need replaced.

“They allowed both of us to maintain a bit of normality during treatment and we both said whilst using them that we would love to be able to fundraise for at least one new one,” Lesley-Ann said.

So far they have raised over £7,300 of their £10,000 target.

Lesley-Ann added: “It’s not nice to think of someone wishing to use one in the future and the option not being there.”

What is a cold cap?

Cold caps are tightly fitted hats that patients undergoing chemotherapy treatment can wear as a machine pumps a coolant gel into the cap.

The cap cools the patient’s scalp, narrowing the blood vessels under the skin and decreasing the amount of the chemotherapy drug that reaches the hair follicles and causes hair to fall out.

Fife Health Charity, which takes donations on behalf of NHS Fife, thanked the two women for their efforts.

Lesley-Ann using the cold cap machine.

Charity director Mark McGeachie said: “We are pleased to hear of Lesley-Ann’s and Hanniffia’s fundraising efforts following their experience during their chemotherapy treatment at Queen Margaret Hospital.

“Their generosity and that of the people of Fife is truly humbling and we are very grateful for all of their efforts and donation.

“Every donation that is given to our hospitals, wards or staff funds is distributed by Fife Health Charity to make a real difference to patients and NHS staff throughout Fife.

Fife Health Charity aims to improve the physical and mental health of the people of Fife, through providing funding and grants that enhance and add value to what is provided by NHS Fife.”

You can donate online here.

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