Life was good for Alexandra Weitz in 2015. The Bloomfield Hills resident was married with an 18-month-old son and had a career as a medical sales representative and surgical technician. After unexpectedly finding a lump in her breast came startling news that she had breast cancer. She was only 30 years old.
While Weitz’s breast cancer was diagnosed early at Stage I, it was aggressive. Her treatment plan included a double mastectomy and chemotherapy but started first with collecting and storing eggs via in vitro fertilization (IVF) as she wanted to have more children.
“When you’re young, you think you’re untouchable and that your life is written in the stars. At 30, I was sent on a crazy rollercoaster ride with no point of reference. It was shocking,” says Weitz.
Her oncologist, Dr. Jeffrey Margolis, suggested that she consider using cold cap therapy during treatment to help minimize hair loss. This therapy involves cooling the scalp to a temperature that restricts blood flow and reduces the delivery of chemotherapy to hair follicles. Cold cap therapy must be approved by a patient’s oncologist.
Weitz’s 15-year-old sister died of leukemia when she was a baby, and she grew up seeing pictures of her wearing a wig. Weitz's desire to avoid that vision for her parents of a second daughter losing her hair due to cancer treatment factored into the mix. Despite challenges, and with help from her mother and husband, Weitz was able to keep her hair during chemotherapy through cold cap therapy.
“There was so much sadness and loss at the time. During treatment you feel so terrible – physically, emotionally, and mentally. The thought of being able to keep even a small part of your normal self and have some privacy surrounding your treatment by keeping your hair is not superficial,” says Weitz. “Even on my worst days, being able to look more like myself gave me a sense of dignity, comfort and control that I desperately needed.”
From her experience, Weitz began encouraging and supporting others going through cancer treatment – which is how she connected with Madison Novice who experienced success with scalp cooling as well. Novice became the driver to establish a nonprofit organization to help with funding, education, and support for local cancer patients who choose cold cap therapy as it is currently not covered by insurance and can be expensive.
Their nonprofit organization, Cap and Conquer, started in September of 2020, with six interconnected founders, including Weitz and Novice, four of whom went through cancer treatment and used this hair-preserving therapy with successful results. According to Weitz, the organization has already supported about 50 people with cold caps, and plans to continue making a positive difference in the lives of local cancer patients.
Today, life is good again for Weitz. She and her husband, Andrew, now have three children, including twin daughters born via IVF with the use of a surrogate. She helps run the family business, Steve’s Deli in Bloomfield Hills, with her parents. And she has discovered her passion supporting others on their cancer journeys.
“This experience is a beautiful gift wrapped in an ugly package. When you’re given something bad, make something good from it. I’ve developed beautiful relationships and fueled a passion to make a difference,” reflects Weitz.
For more information about Cap and Conquer, www.capandconquer.org.
Story: Tracy Donahue
Photo: Laurie Tennent