Bus Driver Navigates the Road to Recovery
De Anna Mixon has been a bus driver for Lovejoy High School for 15 years. She said, “I love my job because of the kids, they are hilarious. I work with the best people.”
She detected a lump while doing a self-examination on February 11. On March 7, when she was waiting in the parking lot at Wylie East High School to drive the one-act play group back to Lovejoy High School, she received the phone call from the pathologist with the results that she had invasive ductal carcinoma, breast cancer. She also had two cancerous lymph nodes.
She was afraid when she heard the diagnosis. She said, “My eldest son is special needs. He is 33 years old and has Apert Syndrome. I said to myself, ‘OK Mrs. Mixon, you have to step up to the plate, your son has gone through much worse than this.’ I can handle this. I look at him and he’s my biggest motivation.” There is a history of cancer in her family. She stressed the importance of knowing where your lymph nodes are located. She didn’t detect the lumps in her lymph nodes during her self-examination since they were under her arm and towards her back.
She elected to have a double mastectomy because she doesn’t want to go through this again. Her surgery was March 27. Her mother-in-law had breast cancer and passed away 30 years ago. Mixon said, “So many improvements have been made since then. You don’t have to lose your dignity. They didn’t do reconstructive surgery then, now they do, and insurance should pay for it.” She had her first chemotherapy session April 23, and her second one May 14.
Mixon is 58 years old, has been married for 35 years and has three grown sons. She said one of her sons ran from the idea that she has cancer because he was afraid, but now it has brought them closer. They planned a family vacation, which she joined a day late because she was so ill. She said David Dillon, LISD Transportation Director, has been very understanding. When she called to ask for an additional day off, because she felt good and wanted a day to simply enjoy the family vacation, he encouraged her to do so. Mixon said, “This is the best district in the world.”
Since being diagnosed, she has learned that she is strong. “I can get through this because I have a lot to live for. There are a lot of people in my corner cheering me on. I want to get back to my kiddos (LISD) but chemo-brain is causing some memory problems and I’m not driving them like this. I will not put my kids in danger.”
Donella DiPasquale, theater teacher at Willow Springs Middle School said, “I have known Mrs. Mixon for 11 years. She has been our exclusive driver for our One Act Play competitions and Academic UIL at the middle school level. She was even trained and participated as a judge and grader in Academic UIL. (She has) A kind heart and strong spirit - the theater students were her babies, too. She would bake for them, and if any had food allergies/restrictions - she made certain everyone had something special. She comes to every single play or musical. (She is) A great friend, an awesome driver and one of us. A fond memory I have is when we go to Scarborough Faire, she dresses up with us and walks around. She is no ordinary driver.”
When she received her diagnoses, in the parking lot of Wylie East High School, her doctor, Shea Joyner was also at Wylie East watching her son in the one-act play. Mixon said, “She ran out to me in the parking lot to comfort me and answer mine, and Demsey’s (her husband), questions.” Demsey is also a LISD bus driver.
She hasn’t cried yet. She said thus far, the worst part about having cancer has been not being able to plan things since she doesn’t know how she will feel. Her silver lining has been a connection she made through one of her doctors to provide a handicap awareness educational program at the doctor’s son’s school. Because her son has Apert Syndrome, this program is something she is very passionate about.
She said throughout this experience, her co-workers and LISD parents have made her feel “… like I’m embraced in hugs. Their caring has made me keep positive.” Advice she gives people fighting cancer is, “Remove negative influences. Mindset is everything. Just because you have cancer and you’re sick, you can still be functional. Life is what you make of it, you have that power.”
Receiving help from Lovejoy High School Theater Director, Jessica Brewster, she started a Gofundme account. Of the $14,000 goal, $10,805 has been met. Mixon lists the following expenses: “Our medical insurance only starts paying 100% once we reach out of pocket $7,655.00. We have to pay the first $1,000.00 then it goes to an 80/20.” She also notes the amount of time she will be out of work: “I do have short term disability through Lovejoy ISD that will pay 60% of my wage after I have been off work for 14 days. This means they will start paying me on the 15th day. I do not have any sick days left to use get me through this “gap” in these days. This process is going to take at least 18 months that we know of at this point. That means in September, my insurance will have to be met again.” If you would like to help Mrs. Mixon with her expenses, please go to gofundme.com/love-4-joyful-deanna-mixon.
Without a moment of hesitation, Mixon finished the following sentence; I look forward to the day…by saying, “When I can drive the bus again! I love my job.”