While going through her daily routine before physical readiness training, preparing her children for school and then readying herself for the rigors of Army life, Staff Sgt. Tikkora Dixon didn’t think much about the lump she felt during her monthly breast exam.
“I thought it was just my breast tissue,” said Dixon, a Newburgh, New York native, assigned to the Warrior Transition Battalion, Fort Bragg.
She found the lump in 2017. She continued living with it without giving much thought to the situation for about a year and a half. Then, while assigned to the operations section of the 10th Military Police Battalion at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, she decided to get the lump checked out.
She saw a radiologist who took images of her chest. He gave her a disk of the images and told her to schedule a follow-up appointment with a doctor.
The radiologist did not tell her anything was wrong, so she went on leave and didn’t see a doctor for another month and a half, she said.
When she was at her appointment, the doctor told her she had breast cancer.
“I just stopped breathing,” Dixon said.
The news hit her hard. As the diagnosis settled in her mind, she began to think, “Why me?”
She first thought of her own mortality, then how this would affect her children. These thoughts, she said, brought a flood of tears. It also brought a sense of urgency.
With no time to waste, her doctor started setting up appointments to running additional tests. She was diagnosed on a Thursday, and the next day she was at the Cancer Center of Kansas with her records.
“They started moving very quickly,” Dixon said. “I was getting biopsies, mammograms and MRIs.”
She said the fast pace scared her, but she knew it was necessary because the MRI scans showed a second tumor in her breast. The doctors offered her two options: remove the cancerous tissue or remove the whole breast.
“I opted to get both breasts removed,” Dixon said.
She chose the double mastectomy to prevent any further development of cancer cells in her breasts.
The diagnosis and surgeries took their toll on Dixon physically, mentally and emotionally. From the time she found out she had cancer to rushing through treatment almost immediately, the small window of time gave her little space to process and prepare, she said. But her children gave her the fuel and drive to push through the surgeries and treatments.
And like all great fighters, Dixon was surrounded by a team who stepped in to help.
“My unit was very supportive,” she said. “They cooked meals for my Family for two weeks straight.”
Staff Sgt. Sharon McNear, one of Dixon’s friends and fellow Soldiers, helped her by regularly taking her two young children to the park. McNear would also host sleepovers at her house, allowing Dixon to focus on her recovery.
“Staff Sgt. Dixon is the most resilient cancer survivor I have ever seen,” McNear said. “Among other things, she is a strong woman, mother and Soldier.”
Although the cancer has been removed, Dixon’s fight is not over. She will have to continue treatment and perform routine doctor’s visits to ensure she stays on top of her health.