FORT BRAGG, N.C. - Going through her normal daily routine of physical readiness training, getting her children ready for school and then herself ready for the rigors of life in the Army, Staff Sergeant Tikkora Dixon didn't think much about a 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 on Fort Bragg.
The year she found the lump was 2017. She continued living with it, not 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 went to 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 until about a month and a half later, she said.
When she was at her appointment, the doctor told her she had breast cancer.
"I just stopped breathing," Dixon said of how hard the news hit her.
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 for 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 quick pace scared her, but she knew it was necessary, because the MRI discovered 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 choose to do that to prevent any further development of cancer cells in her breasts.
The diagnosis and surgeries took their toll on Dixon physically, mentally and emotionally. Being told she had cancer, and then rushed through treatment so quickly, gave her little time 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 Sergeant Dixon is the most resilient cancer survivor I have ever seen," McNear said. "Among other things, she is a strong woman, mother, and Soldier."
Though her breast cancer is removed, Dixon's fight is not over. She will have to continue taking medication and perform routine doctor's visits to ensure she is staying on top of her health.