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Cold caps allow Krystal Galindo to keep hair

Just when Krystal and Josh Galindo thought they were putting 2020 and COVID-19 behind them as they entered 2021, their hopes was quickly dashed when the 34-year-old mom of four was diagnosed with breast cancer.

Now cancer-free with a good prognosis after finishing chemotherapy in August, Krystal Galindo and her husband are using their experience to assist other Las Vegas women through cancer by helping them keep their hair intact.

Krystal Galindo was diagnosed with stage 1B invasive ductal carcinoma of the breast with one lymph node affected. Her grandmother on her father’s side had breast cancer twice but didn’t think her breast cancer was genetic. Galindo has learned that the gene runs in the family on her paternal side. Her father has the gene as does her dad’s sister. Krystal Galindo has a brother and a sister who also carry the gene.

Fighting cancer was one thing. Telling her children was another. That was an option Krystal and Josh Galindo avoided. But they knew it wouldn’t be easy once Krystal Galindo started to lose her hair during her planned chemotherapy.

With children ages 2, 3, 6 and 8, the couple didn’t want the kids to worry or try to comprehend a cancer diagnosis. That led the couple to cold caps that preserve hair during treatment.

Krystal Galindo was willing to give it a try so that she minimized a change in appearance during treatment. She also had her eyebrows micro-bladed and eyelashes put on to look the same for her children.

She finished her last treatment on Aug. 11 with a full head of hair.

It wasn’t easy, and some doctors thought it could not be done.

The process is labor-intensive, and the cost is about $500 per month, so not every woman can afford it.

The Galindos were in a position to do so as the owners of the Galindo Group Real Estate brokerage, which has 50 agents.

It all started in June 2020 when Krystal Galindo felt a small lump only to be told it was only a thyroid issue. She watched it, and it doubled in size. When she went in January to get tested again, before she even left the facility where she got the mammogram, she was getting a call from her doctor and told to get a biopsy right away.

“I had a biopsy the next day on Thursday, and on Monday they called me and told me I had (breast cancer),” she said. “From there, we hit the ground running.”

She went to the Comprehensive Cancer Centers of Nevada for her surgery and treatment. Her medical oncologist, Fadi Braiteh, wanted to do an aggressive treatment plan, which she said meant a 100 percent hair loss.

“We decided not to tell (the kids) anything, so it was really important to try and save my hair not only for their mental health but my own so when I look in the mirror, I feel healthy,” Krystal Galindo said. “If I don’t see anything different, then I wouldn’t feel sick.”

She underwent 16 rounds of chemotherapy over six months, which required going the route of cold caps to preserve her hair.

The $500-a-month cost included four caps that had to be rotated on the patient’s head every 20 minutes, Josh Galindo said. The cold caps had to be maintained at a minus 20- to 40-degree temperature and required constant monitoring with dry ice. The four caps were placed between 60 pounds of dry ice, he added.

The first four chemo treatments were every three weeks, and the last 12 were weekly. The whole process involved two hours before treatment, three hours during treatment and five hours afterward for a total of 10 hours of wearing caps, Josh Galindo said.

When the cold cap was placed on Krystal Galindo’s head, it was an instant brain freeze. She also used cold mittens and booties to help prevent neuropathy, which can be a side effect of treatment.

The concept is like dealing with a swollen ankle that if you put something cold on it, the blood flow is restricted. That restriction kept the chemo away from the hair follicles, Josh Galindo explained.

“The physical and mental strength it takes to endure that level of cold even after her head is completely numb is impressive,” he said.

The couple have launched a fundraising campaign to help other women and fellow Comprehensive Cancer Centers patients with children save their hair through cold caps. They are doing it through their nonprofit Galindo Gives, which started with their real estate brokerage helping valley families during the holidays. They plan to raise $5,000 to $10,000, just to start.

“The cold capping is where I think awareness needs to be shined,” Josh Galindo said. “Every doctor we asked about them said they don’t work. They do work.”

He continued, “We were committed to normalcy. That comes across as vain, but when something this big interrupts your life, you are craving and grasping for any normalcy you can find or anything you can control because everything feels so out of control. When we found these existed, it was the one thing we could control and one thing that we could experience and maintain a level of normalcy. We latched onto it.”

Josh Galindo said he was shocked that insurance didn’t pay for it. They did their research and found a company in London that makes the caps as it’s a common technique used in Europe, he said.

Krystal Galindo underwent a double mastectomy at the end of September, and pathology reports say there’s no evidence of cancer. She said she will be at high risk for the rest of her life and will have to monitor it but is doing well.

“It’s still kind of surreal,” Krystal said of what she has gone through. “I always say it’s 90 percent mental and 10 percent physical because I still feel totally healthy. During our treatment, I didn’t eat any meat or drink any alcohol and did a lot of green drinks just to make sure I was completely healthy. I had to keep reminding myself you have to do this. I know you feel fine, but this is a reality.”

Josh Galindo said what they both learned from COVID-19 is they didn’t want to lose a year of their lives and were committed to living every day and enjoying their children.

“When this hit, we thought 2021 was going to be coming out of COVID would be lot’s of fun, but this hit and we had to double down on that thought process,” Josh Galindo said. “I know, for me, I compartmentalized things. You don’t get to feel. You can’t sit on your couch and think about cancer and your wife and your four kids and what it’s going to look like if this doesn’t go your way.

“You just get back on the horse and compartmentalize that component of your life and tackle every task that it brings to you and get back to the rest of your life. We did a pretty good job at that. We made sure to go on vacations a lot, and we grew the business, we loved each other and socialized.”

Krystal Galindo said it was important to keep everything the same. The kids continued in sports. She didn’t take any time off work, except for treatment days. It was good to have normalcy and the distraction, she said.

“I couldn’t sit and sulk in it,” she said.

A big reason why they want to do the fundraiser with the cold caps is that “I want to find my why. I don’t know my why, but if I think I can find purpose in changing other people’s lives from it, that’s my why,” Krystal Galindo said.

She knew what it meant to her and wanted to make a difference with others.

“I think it is so important for mothers to keep normalcy because if your kids are feeling normal, then you put on a brave face for them,” Krystal Galindo said. “If we were to raise money for the people who can’t afford the caps, that would be fulfilling and give me my purpose and give me my why.”

As for her future, she said she will wait until her children are older before she tells them but she hasn’t mapped that out yet.

“I’m never going to throw out the word cancer until they are a little bit older to process it and understand it’s not a death sentence,” Krystal Galindo said. “If they were to go to school and tell someone ‘my mom has cancer,’ one of their friends will be like ‘my grandpa died of that or so-and-so died from that.’”

They would rather focus on what good they can do going forward.

Josh Galindo said even if they are only able to help three women with the cold caps and it works for them, they will tell others and it will spread to others in the U.S. rather than just in Europe.

“I know it sounds crazy,” he said. “That people don’t know about it,” Krystal Galindo added.

That word is already getting out.

Krystal Galindo had a video of her last cold cap removal shot by a friend who posted it on TikTok. It now has 25 million views. People magazine posted her video, and “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” and networks have reached out to her. Check it out at http://bit.ly/3p7H19U.

“We think this can get big,” Josh Galindo said.

To donate to the fund, people can go to Krystal Galindo’s Instagram page, Krystal M. Galindo, or galindogrouprealestate.com

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