When Carole Kohler was diagnosed with breast cancer, she never questioned why it happened to her.

“I always said to myself ‘why not me?’ because I think everybody is on a journey and I just felt like I needed to go along for the ride,” the 70-year-old Windber resident said. “I had a real positive attitude through it all.”

In February 2011, Kohler made doctor’s appointments for a mammogram and another for the dermatologist.

“Down my left arm for several months before I was diagnosed, I had a very angry red rash and I tried several ointments and it wasn’t disappearing and it was real bothersome to me,” the retired registered nurse and certified childbirth educator said. “It was real unusual.”

The mammogram appointment at Joyce Murtha Breast Care Center was first.

“I got the news about the mammogram and was diagnosed with infiltrating lobular breast cancer and I was a Stage 2,” Kohler said. “You really can’t feel a lump with that, so it was definitely detected by the mammogram.”

She said upon hearing the news of her diagnosis she wasn’t surprised.

“It was probably one of the only times I cried,” Kohler said. “I’m really strong and positive and have some knowledge behind me, but it was because I hated to go home and tell my daughters this. That was the only bad time.”

Kohler underwent four surgeries to remove the tumor, followed by four rounds of chemotherapy and then radiation.

She said a few days later after the first surgery to remove the tumor the rash on her arm started to disappear.

“I kept that dermatology appointment because something just didn’t seem right because my breast cancer was in my left breast,” she said. 

“The dermatologist knew right away and said it was called paraneoplastic syndrome, and what causes that rash is either hormones produced by the tumor or antibodies produced by your immune system.”

Kohler said the rash was her body’s way to telling her something was wrong.

“I worked with many, many patients over the years and probably educated a few 1,000 women in my 38 years with my childbirth classes and seeing them in the office and I had never heard of this before,” Kohler said.

Eight years later from the diagnosis, she is cancer free.

“I have my mammogram every May and everything has been fine,” Kohler said. “I just have yearly follow ups, no other treatment is needed.”

Kohler said she credits her husband of 48 years, George, daughters, Kristen and Kelly, and other family members and friends as her support system.

“My rock was my husband; I used to laugh and tell him I was going to rent him out as a caregiver,” she said. 

“He always knew what to do for my comfort. I can remember bad days of chemo lying in bed and I’d open my eyes and he’d be sitting in a chair in the corner of the room just watching me.”

Her message to other women is to make getting your mammogram a top priority.

“My type of cancer was not detected by a lump, you can’t just go by feeling your breasts, you must have that mammogram done,” Kohler said.

 

Local events

Pink Ribbon Bagel: Through Oct. 31. Panera Bread in Richland Township will donate a portion of the proceeds to the Joyce Murtha Breast Care Center at Chan Soon-Shiong Medical Center at Windber.

Color Me Pink Run/Walk: 5K begins at 9 a.m. Saturday and walk starts at 9:15 a.m. For the 5K run only, awards will be presented to the top male and female finishers as well as the top male and female in each age group. Register online at www.windbercare.org. For more information, call 814-467-3705. Event benefits Joyce Murtha Breast Care Center at Chan Soon-Shiong Medical Center.

Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art Think Pink fundraiser: 6:30 p.m. Nov. 1, Blairmont Club, Hollidaysburg. Tickets are $125 per person. Reservations requested by Tuesday and can be made online at www.sama-art.org or by contacting the Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art at Altoona at 814-946-4464 or altoona@sama-art.org.

Kelly Urban is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. She can be reached at (814) 532-5073. Follow her on Twitter @KellyUrban25.

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