Imagine that you are 29 years-old, engaged, and ready to begin your adult life. Suddenly, life deals you a devastating blow: cancer. That’s what happened to Nicole Dixon, a young Filipino-Caucasian woman from Kent. With no family history of breast cancer, she found a lump in her breast and decided to get it examined. That decision would save her life.
On June 5th, thousands around Puget Sound will participate in an annual event called “Race for the Cure”, organized by Susan G. Komen for the Cure to help raise awareness for early detection of breast cancer. In one glance, you’ll see a lot of people walking in pink. Look more closely, and you’ll discover story after story of amazing courage and survival. Dixon’s story is just one in our community.
Just after Dixon’s 30th birthday, she was officially diagnosed with breast cancer, sending shock waves through her entire family. There were days when Dixon couldn’t stop crying, leaving her supportive family to feel helpless. Although Dixon initially asked herself the inevitable question of, “How did it choose me?” Her thoughts then turned to something more positive, “Maybe it’s a good thing, because I’m probably the only one in my family that would have gone to get it checked out,” Dixon told us.
According to the latest statistics looking at minority groups, Asian American and Pacific Islander women have a lower risk of breast cancer diagnosis: 92 women out of every 100,000 Asian American and Pacific Islander women are diagnosed, compared to non-Hispanic white women (133 per 100,000) and African-American (120 per 100,000).
Here’s what makes Dixon’s case especially rare: only five percent of all breast cancers occur in women under age 40 according to the Susan G. Komen for the Cure.
Dixon began chemotherapy in March 2010, forcing her to put off her wedding arrangements with her fiancé. With her wedding on hold, Dixon began to look forward to a new event, Race for the Cure. Although she would still be undergoing chemotherapy, she made it her goal to walk in the 2010 Race for the Cure, no matter what. “I just knew that I wanted to be a part of it, so there wasn’t much of a question.”
With the help of her sister, they set up a team called “Hot Cocoa,” in honor of one of Dixon’s nicknames. Her team recruited 50 people – mostly family. Participating in the walk was a huge milestone for Dixon, and it was also a huge celebration for her and her family. “The walk turned into so much fun that my team and I started a dance party on the grass,” exclaimed Dixon.
Looking back on her life just a year ago, Dixon is sharing her story so people know that breast cancer can strike anyone at any time. She wants others, perhaps people as young as she, to understand that chemotherapy doesn’t have to prevent you from living your life.
“The thought of chemo scares people. My decision to participate in the race while undergoing chemotherapy shows people that yea, it’s chemotherapy, but you can still be active.” Dixon’s family played a huge role in her recovery. She says that she would not have been able to get through it without the support of her amazing family, which she says, highlights the need for support in the midst of disease.
As she ramps up for this year’s Race for the Cure, Dixon celebrates one year of being cancer-free. She’s enthusiastic for the race and grateful for the support that helped her heal from a disease that came out of nowhere.
Dixon tied the knot at the end of March 2011. In the end, Dixon said her wedding was just as beautiful as she hoped it would be. At the race, she expects her team “Hot Cocoa” will be bigger than last year, inviting anyone who wants to join her for “another huge celebration” to dance on the grass for all of life’s gifts.
If you’d like to know more about breast cancer prevention and screening, or you would like to walk, run or dance with Nicole and thousands of other women on June 5th, sign up at www.komenpugetsound.org.