U-M lymphoma patient's nonprofit advocates for treatment that saved her hair during chemo

Two weeks before moving to Wisconsin to start law school, 23-year-old student Rachel Mount’s plans unexpectedly and drastically changed due to a diagnosis of Hodgkin's lymphoma. Now two years in remission, she is trying to help other cancer patients by promoting a treatment method that changed her battle with cancer.

Mount and her mother founded Carefree Capping, a nonprofit focusing on promoting the use of cold-capping, a treatment used alongside traditional chemotherapy to help reduce hair loss in cancer patients. The organization is based in Southeastern Michigan and has numerous partners in Washtenaw County. While Mount’s oncology team at the University of Michigan approved her using a cold cap, she says they still told her she would end up losing her hair throughout her treatment.
Rachel Mount wears a cold cap in the hospital.
“Through six months of chemo, I didn’t lose any hair at all, really,” Mount says. “It completely transformed my experience going through treatment, and really gave me a sense of control, which not a lot of cancer patients have.”

Cold-capping is not covered by most major insurance providers. Many oncologists, Mount explains, actually view the practice as dangerous for patients with lymphoma due to it restricting blood flow to the scalp, which could inhibit chemotherapy drugs reaching the head in the event the cancer spreads there. But after some additional research, Mount and her team of doctors actually found that cold-capping could be beneficial – and in Mount’s case, trying it made all the difference in her treatment.

“I understand why some oncologists wouldn’t allow their patients to use a cold cap since their job is to get rid of the cancer and they don’t want to risk inhibiting that treatment,” Mount says. “I don't want to say I had a positive experience – cancer sucks. But it had such a big impact on me.”

With Carefree Capping, Mount hopes to not only alleviate some of the financial stress of cancer treatment, but to “open up a conversation” around the benefits of cold-capping and why more oncologists should recommend it to their Hodgkin’s patients. After fundraising events – like cocktail tastings, inspired by Mount’s previous experience as an Ann Arbor bartender – Mount and the volunteers at Carefree Capping are now working on patient outreach and connecting with doctors for patient referrals. 

“My mother and I realized how unaffordable the entire cancer industry is,” Mount says. “I’m very thankful that I was able to have the resources to cold cap, but I also recognize very clearly that a lot of people don’t.”

While the nonprofit is currently focusing on Hodgkin’s patients who reside and are receiving treatment in Michigan, she hopes to eventually extend the organization's reach to patients outside of the state. 

“I’ve never run an organization before, and with me currently being in law school, we don’t want to overwhelm ourselves,” Mount says. “The last thing I'd want to happen is to not be able to help everyone who reaches out to us.”

For more information on Carefree Capping’s services and Mount’s story, visit carefreecapping.com or email carefreecapping@gmail.com.

Rylee Barnsdale is a Michigan native and longtime Washtenaw County resident. She wants to use her journalistic experience from her time at Eastern Michigan University writing for the Eastern Echo to tell the stories of Washtenaw County residents that need to be heard.

Photos courtesy of Carefree Capping.
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