Nola Dohrman has a new favorite color: pink. She's donning it from head to toe to raise awareness about her disease: inflammatory breast cancer. Like many patients with IBC, Dohrman was caught off guard by the diagnosis.
"I kind of broke out and thought ‘Oh maybe it's just shingles again,'" said Dohrman.
But her chest redness, swelling, and tenderness turned out to be symptoms of inflammatory breast cancer. Those are the disease's common signs, not a lump like most other forms of breast cancer. Once it's caught, IBC is usually advanced and aggressive. Dohrman's cancer is stage four. But that's not dampening her spirits.
"I have family in my mom and dad and my husband, and they have been behind me the whole time. Friends at work, friends at church - it means so much to have them behind me. Without their support, I wouldn't keep going on and being as positive as I am," Dohrman said.
Since first being diagnosed in April, Dohrman's undergone chemo therapy, radiation, and a mastectomy. It's a treatment regimen that's common for inflammatory breast cancer patients. But it's not easy to go through all that. So doctors are impressed with her bright outlook on the disease.
"When I told her this is what it is and this is what we're dealing with, she was really ready to get on with the show and start chemo therapy. And I think that attitude really makes a difference," said Dr. Mukund Nadipuram, oncologist at the Covenant Cancer Treatment Center in Waterloo.
Dohrman hopes her positive view, despite a difficult diagnosis, will help her physically fight breast cancer, while offering encouragement to others to make the most of life, no matter what.
"Take time, step back, and enjoy everything," Dohrman said.
Doctors say Nola Dohrman's case is also a reminder that if you notice changes or anything unusual about your breasts, it's best to seek medical attention. Early diagnosis is key to successful treatment and recovery.