Fighting cancer ‘like a Viking woman’
Foundation sponsors use of cooling cap during chemo
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Though she’s a busy mom of three and works as a vice president at Resort Group, longtime Steamboat Springs resident Dina Fisher also is in the fight of her life.
“I’m an adventurous Viking woman, and I’m going to channel that to fight this enemy we call cancer,” Fisher said. “I’m grateful for a chance to fight. Some people never get to meet their enemy and have a chance to fight.”
Last month, Fisher was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer, and she is waging her medical war with the assistance of the team at Jan Bishop Cancer Center, part of UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center. Fisher said she is happy to be receiving treatment in the town where she has lived for more than 30 years.
“It’s such a blessing; we get to sit in a chair and look up at the ski area and be a few minutes from our house. That’s huge for someone going through what I am,” Fisher said.
With the help of her family, Fisher is fighting week by week and has so far completed two long days of chemotherapy treatments.
Since she is of Scandinavian descent — her maternal great-grandparents immigrated to the U.S. from Sweden — Fisher considers herself to have a fiery Viking fighting spirit. The most supportive weapons in her arsenal to help make it through the treatment plan are her faith in God and playing games with her two daughters. Another armament she is wearing is a high-tech helmet that might keep her long, dark blond hair from falling out due to treatments.
That helmet is actually a high-tech DigniCap Scalp Cooling System, which is an FDA-cleared device that provides scalp cooling to minimize hair loss from chemotherapy. The cancer center started offering use of the cooling system in August, one of 10 locations in Colorado to do so, according to YVMC officials. Cooling the scalp causes blood vessels to constrict, which may limit the amount of chemotherapy drug that reaches hair follicles.
The DigniCap is available for local chemotherapy patients to use for free through financial support from Yampa Valley Medical Center Foundation and local nonprofit Bust of Steamboat.
Fisher said she has always worn her hair long, ever since an upsetting time at age 11 when a family member decided she needed a short haircut. Most importantly, Fisher hopes not to lose her hair, which is usually a given with chemotherapy treatments, for the sake of her daughters. She wants them to see the giving mom, the former Girl Scouts leader and the competent professional woman.
“When my girls look at me, I don’t want them to see cancer first,” Fisher said. “I feel like keeping any sense of normalcy in their lives right now is important.”
Studies of DigniCap use show a 66% chance of reducing alopecia in breast cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy, said Kristi Tullis, oncology nurse navigator at the cancer center. Fisher is the first to use the new cooling cap locally because it requires being connected to a cooling machine and adds a few hours to treatments.
Tullis said although scalp cooling therapies have been around for years, the current DigniCap system is more advanced and easier to use. The DigniCap is another step in providing holistic care, said Tullis, a registered nurse for 19 years. The cap also might be used by chemotherapy patients fighting other cancers such as prostate, ovarian, uterine and lung.
Fisher said the cap is not painful but feels like a too-tight, cold ski helmet. At first, the cooling caused a “brain freeze,” such as when drinking an icy drink too fast, but she acclimated.
With her recent diagnosis and staying strong in the face of other family health challenges, Fisher, at first, did not want to be featured in a media story. But she decided to talk about how impressed and grateful she is for the staff at the hometown cancer center.
“My overall goal, I would love for people to know what a gem and blessing it is to have the center and their team. Without them, it would have been much harder to leave my family for treatments,” she said. “They are so compassionate, beyond words. You feel like you have a whole team fighting with you.”
The Jan Bishop Cancer Center opened in January 2017, but the hospital has offered cancer treatments for 27 years, Tullis said. In 2019, the center cared for more than 150 new patients, with a quarter of those battling breast cancer. The infusion clinic at the center handles an average of 240 visits each month.
After recovering recently from an underlying infection that kept her sick for a week and in the hospital for three nights, Fisher has 14 more weeks of chemotherapy treatments.
“We are taking each week as it comes, and I’m channeling my Viking girl,” she said.
To reach Suzie Romig, call 970-871-4205 or email sromig@SteamboatPilot.com.
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