MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. --
Six years after being declared cancer free and one year after marrying her husband, a Marine mom added another anniversary to her list Oct. 30.
Karen Dohman, whose son, Pfc. Chad Dohman is a student at the Combat Center’s Marine Corps Communications-Electronics School, surprised her Marine when she showed up at the starting line of the MCCES Fun Run bearing 70 shirts sporting her personal slogan, “Ooh-Rah for Tah-Tahs.”
Dohman said she and her son have been participating in the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure in Houston for the past several years and this year, Chad couldn’t take leave to run the race. She knew it bothered her son to not be able to run this year.
“He has always been there to support me,” said the Houston native. “In anything I’ve done and in everything that has happened to me, he’s been there.”
Chad, 26, from Montgomery, Texas, said he felt badly for being so far from his mother for her Oct. 12 birthday and for missing the race.
“My mom is something else,” said the Marine whose friends call him ‘Tex.’ “I saw her get so frail, but no matter how bad it got for her, she always found it in her to help others.
“Even now – even if she doesn’t know them – she’ll go out to the hospitals and try and give every person she meets the gift of laughter. She’s a real special woman.”
Her quest to give others the gift of laughter led her to write the book, “If Only I Could Laugh About…My Booby and Me,” in 2005. A compilation of anecdotes about the relationship she developed with her prosthetic breast post-mastectomy while awaiting reconstructive surgery, it features a superhero in the form of T.B. (temporary booby) and a villain, the Evil Expander.
“I found it so hard to laugh after I was diagnosed and it wasn’t until I found laughter again things began to look more positive,” she said of her October 2003 Ductal Carcinoma In-Situ diagnosis “I wrote my book hoping to give women a way to laugh through the horrific times they’re facing – adversity through laughter; ‘tumor-humor.’”
When it came time to help her son find a way to show his support, she decided to make T-shirts he could wear during the MCCES Fun Run with hopes he would take a quick picture to send home.
After the initial idea was put into action, she explained she was stuck trying to figure out what the shirts should say. After consulting with some of her employees, “Ooh-Rah for Tah-Tahs” was born.
Karen said she realized soon after she received the first five olive drab shirts with the slogan printed in hot pink camouflage across the chest they were too good for only camera-phone pictures.
With the help of Combat Center officials, Dohman hatched a plan to surprise her son in person. After hearing of the plans her employers, Pam and Mike Manning of Napco Chemical Inc. in Spring, Texas, had 70 more shirts printed for the Marines attending the Fun Run and so began Operation “Ooh-Rah for Tah-Tahs.”
With her son still unaware, she and her husband made their way to California the night before the race.
The next morning, Chad, worried because race day arrived and he could not find the shirts, called his mother asking her where they were. He didn’t know his mother and stepfather were only a few streets away aboard the Combat Center.
Dohman led him to believe she was at work in Texas and someone at the race would have the shirts.
With the trap set, Dohman and her husband Andy Murdock made their way to the fun run, T-shirts in tow.
Chad, still oblivious to his mother’s plan, was worried about finding the shirts and taking the picture for his mom – until he saw her standing at the starting line.
“Chad was almost in tears he was so happy,” Dohman said. “I think he was still in shock the next day.”
Chad described seeing his mom at the run as priceless, like a commercial.
After a quick reunion, Dohman, Andy and Chad passed out the shirts, which were snatched up by Marines and race participants in a matter of minutes.
“I thought Marines might be wary about wearing shirts with pink ‘Ooh-Rah for Tah-Tahs’ lettering across the front,” Dohman said. “I was wrong; they loved them.”
Capt. Elishama Wheeler, the executive officer of Company B, MCCES, told Dohman about his sister, Kourtney, who is a breast and ovarian cancer survivor.
He said breast cancer awareness is near and dear to his heart as a result of his sister’s diagnosis and survival.
“Any coverage and support by the military can only do positive things to raise awareness and ensure other women take the steps to stay cancer free,” said the Richmond, Va., native.
It is this kind of support Dohman hopes to gain with the T-shirts.
“Every Marine has a mother, a grandmother, aunt, sister or even a friend,” she said. “Breast cancer doesn’t discriminate – it can affect anyone.”
She said she plans to sell the shirts and donate half of the profits to the American Cancer Society, and the other half to the Wounded Warrior Regiment.
“Women who have breast cancer fight for their lives just as the Marines fight for our lives everyday,” Dohman said. “I want to be able to do my part to give back to both communities as a survivor and as aproud Marine mom.”
For more information about Dohman and her ‘Ooh-Rah for Tah-Tah’s’ shirts, visit http://www.ooh-rah-for-tah-tahs.com or email oohrah firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information about Dohman’s book visit the Web site, http://www. myboobyandme.com.