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Pamela Bixler calls breast cancer diagnosis surreal

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Pamela Bixler found a lump in her breast while taking a shower, but she had had swollen lymph nodes in other parts of her body and said it felt the same. She didn’t worry about it.

"I gave my disease up to my high power," said Pamela Bixler, a nurse. "That's what got me through it. That and my family."   EMILY ROSE BENNETT/STAFF
"I gave my disease up to my high power," said Pamela Bixler, a nurse. "That's what got me through it. That and my family."

When she felt another swollen lymph node under her arm a few months later, she became concerned and made an appointment with her doctor.

She bled a lot when the biopsy was performed, which is typical of cancer, she said. Less than a week later, the diagnosis was confirmed.

Bixler said she was told after her partial mastectomy that she was cancer-free. When she returned to the doctor to have her port and stitches removed, however, she learned she had cancer of the lymphatic system.

“It was very traumatic,” she said. “It was a surreal experience. I was living it, but it’s like, this isn’t really happening to me.

“It was at that time in my life when I realized I wasn’t the bus driver in my life. I was only a passenger.”

Her biggest fear was for her daughter. Bixler’s first husband died when Tiffany was 14, and though Bixler’s second husband, Bill, had stepped into the fatherly role, she didn’t want to leave Tiffany without a biological parent.

“You think about the biological things,” Bixler said.

Her battle gave her a stronger faith in a higher power. She also made a lot of lifestyle changes, including becoming a vegan.


AGE: 56

FAMILY: Husband, Bill; daughter, Tiffany; son, Chris

OCCUPATION: Nurse, Dwight D. Eisenhower Army Medical Center

DIAGNOSIS AND TREATMENT: July 3, 2006; partial mastectomy, chemotherapy and radiation

HER ADVICE: “My biggest advice is to give it to a higher power. Your higher power is the one in charge. Like I said, I’m not the bus driver; I’m just a passenger. I know it’s really hard for family and friends to know what to say. You still need that support in your life. Study, investigate, see what your options are. Support groups are a great thing.”

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