Nicole Anderson, 33, Atlanta, Georgia
Almost two years since being diagnosed with Stage II Breast Cancer, Nicole Anderson stands in her warehouse, where her company “HER Wine” is housed, with a vibrant smile reminiscing her journey.
The year was 2021 and Anderson was 31-years-old living life working a nine-to-five, building a career, and having a hustle, which is now known as HER Wine. HER Wine officially launched in September 2020, so in 2021, Anderson was getting the ball rolling on the company.
“It [HER Wine] honestly took off faster than I expected it to, so around this time, I’m operating my hustle like a full-time job on top of a full-time job. So, I was focused on everything else that I wasn’t even taking myself into consideration,” she said.
Around September/October 2021, Anderson noticed a lump, or a “dent” on her left breast as she described it, however she brushed it off.
“I didn’t pay attention to it. I honestly was so consumed with life doing its thing like being at this event and working on this thing and just not giving myself time,” Anderson said. “So, I just disregarded it until it hurt. The saddest thing is you see these things, we notice when things are abnormal with our bodies, we can tell when stuff is coming, but we choose to ignore it because something else takes priority.”
The moment the lump began to hurt, Anderson said she remembers calling her mom saying she might have “sprained her breast”, to which her mother said it wasn’t a thing.
“I remember her telling me, ‘You need to call the doctor and go ASAP’,” she said.
Even still, Anderson said she let other things in life take priority over her health.
“It was like a sharp pain and would come out of nowhere. I didn’t want to move, but after a while, I started to normalize this weird sensation in my body instead of addressing it,” she said.
Her mom, she said, kept calling to see if she made an appointment, but with a busy schedule, she didn’t get around to making the appointment until she couldn’t take the pain anymore.
When she finally made the appointment to her doctor weeks later, Anderson said she didn’t have any family history of breast cancer, she was relatively healthy, so they thought nothing of it, but to take the necessary precautions to get the lump checked out.
“When my doctor called me in December, she was in shock. She was like, ‘I’m so sorry’, but it came back cancerous,” Anderson said.
When she received the news, Anderson said everything stopped. Anderson was diagnosed with Stage II Breast Cancer (Triple positive), which was an extremely aggressive form. It spread to both breast and her lymph nodes.
“In my head, I’m like ‘Do I really have cancer?”I was just fine two weeks ago. It was the last thing I needed, and I went into this weird survival mode. I’m a planner by nature, so I’m like, what’s next,” she said. So, I call my mom and I’m hysterical, I can’t even really get the words out. My mom is like ‘It’s going to be okay; we’re going to get through this’.
When she was diagnosed, Anderson did not have any children yet, but she desires to, however she said at the time, doctors were making plans for the rest of her life, specifically near future plans.
“They’re like, ‘Well, you don’t have kids yet, you should probably go and get some fertility treatments because you need to start this treatment ASAP,” she said.
Anderson said she was terrified because all she knew from cancer was death.
“My grandmother had pancreatic cancer, that’s the only extent of cancer I knew, and she passed away from it, so you start thinking about all the things you haven’t done yet and that you wanted to do. You start asking yourself, ‘Is this the end?’ like why me?” she said.
Anderson said she took a moment to process all her emotions and cry.
“My mom was with me, and she looked at me and I was trying not to look at her because I knew if I did, I’d break. She grabbed me and I just let it all out, I cried and just broke down,” she said.
However, Anderson made the decision to not park in negative emotion and instead decided to plan one step at a time.
Anderson said she went into remission and had her last surgery in July.
Nothing but God: Remembering your purpose
Anderson, raised in Atlanta, said she had to wash away the negative feelings, but would come in waves.
It started with a lot of feeling overwhelmed, scared, and angry she said, and Anderson even went through a phase where she was mad at God.
“I went through a phase where I was pissed at God. I was doing everything I was supposed to do, and living life, like I’m trying God, I’m nice to people and you hit me with this? So, you go through those phases of all the emotions, being mad at yourself and having to forgive yourself for not taking care of yourself,” she said.
Ultimately, Anderson said she kept her “compass” on North, which was happiness. She wanted to focus on things that brought her joy, feel good moments, small things like eating something she really wanted, or doing something extravagant like seeing Beyoncé in London.
Two things kept her going throughout her battle: God and focusing on her happiness.
“I hear people say, ‘It was God’ all the time, and I never understood it, but God got me through it,” she said. “I always thought, ‘Is that just a thing that you say’, but I really had to have moments where I was completely stripped of everything and in your most vulnerable state. I think that’s when you really get to have a moment of understanding of who you are and the power source of who’s your creator, whatever that may be, for anybody.”
For her, Anderson said she looked at it as an energy source of God, and she had to stay grounded and have a compass to say, ‘What am I here for?’ and ‘What’s the purpose of pushing me?’.
Additionally, Anderson is big on affirmations and has them all over her mirror at home on sticky notes. For anyone who remembers the hit TV show on BET, “Being Mary Jane”, you know exactly what this looks like.
Her favorite affirmation is “Everything is working for your greater good no matter what it is”.
“I truly believe that I have no bad days. Every day is amazing, and it doesn’t mean that things don’t happen that are challenging. Yes, those happen still, but it’s all about perception and how I choose to look at it,” she said. I don’t look at and I didn’t choose to look at cancer as my death sentence. I chose to look at it as this is something that God is putting me through because he’s trying to stretch me and there’s a lesson that needs to be learned.”
Anderson had to tap in, do the work, and learn the lesson.
“I literally taught myself you have to make decisions; you can either evolve or repeat, and that repetitive cycle is going to lead me to my grave, but the evolution of it allows me to grow and expand and see the more beautiful things that are out here,” she said.
Also, Anderson said her family, friends, and specifically her mom were there every single moment of her journey calling her “my best friend”.
“She was the epitome of strength, grace, and courage when I went through the battle. She was my lifeline, she never missed a beat between every doctor’s appointment, every infusion she was at, every surgery, she was making sure that I’m taking my supplements,” she said. “She had to spoon feed me at times like I was a 30 plus year old woman, and you’re having to spoon feed your daughter and I get emotional talking about it because I can only imagine how it was for her as a mom to see her daughter go through this.”
When it comes to love and support, Anderson said you need to feel the love when you’re going through a hard time.
“The love fuels you and gives you a reason. My mom saw me at points where I was going to give up and she told me, ‘You will not. I’m going to feed you, you’re going to eat, you’re going to be okay’,” she said.
HER Wine & HER Passion
HER Wine is a brand dedicated to bringing serenity and peace in those small moments when you need to relax.
The company gave Anderson a sense of purpose and fulfillment during her battle with breast cancer.
“We had so many new wins during that season, like being a part of a distributor. It was like a big win and that was our first store during my process,” she said. “So, it was cool to have something to look forward to and then also that feeling made me think, ‘Outside of wine, what brings me happiness’ and that’s what led me on a journey, and it really helped me with the healing and creating a positive mindset.”
Also, after beating breast cancer, Anderson wanted to find a way to help other women on this journey, so she partnered with organizations like “I Will Survive (IWS)” to help provide economic and emotional support for women during their fight and highlight the disease and offer more opportunities for wellness checks and prevention.
With the partnership, they donate 10% of each of their Bubbly Rose’ wines to the IWS organization. IWS helps to economically put money in the hands of women who are going through this diagnosis because it’s expensive. Anderson said she spent $2,000 on something to try and preserve her hair and it didn’t even work.
While Anderson has a passion for wine, she also has a huge passion for traveling. She traveled to Angola right after her radiation treatment. She also just came back from Greece and will be in the Bahamas in a couple of weeks.
“I love to travel and see the world and it’s probably my biggest passion outside of wine. Aside from that, I’m an outdoors girl, I love the movies, walking, and being out in nature,” she said.
For advice to anyone battling cancer, Anderson says to embrace the feelings.
“I think sometimes we try to force ourselves into these positions of peace and happiness, and we try to adjust like a diet, but you can’t. It takes 21 days to create a habit. It’s not something that happens overnight, so embrace the moment of what it is and understand,” she said.
Anderson said to do introspective work on understanding where you are in the moment and what might God be trying to teach you.
“From there, don’t look at it as a death sentence. It’s a challenge, but there are ways, and a positive mindset is key. You can absolutely overcome that, but you must believe that within yourself and if you truly believe that it’s going to happen,” she said. “Some people find their healing and happiness through laughter; I would have my mom and I watch funny movies and comedy skits. I watched a lot of ‘Wild ‘n Out’ reruns.
Anderson also said you dictate who is in your bubble.
“Everybody can’t fit in your bubble. If you have negative people in your life during this period while you’re healing, you must let them go,” she said. “That was probably the hardest part for me because I’m a socialite, but I did not interact with as many people during my healing time because I have to protect my energy.”
Furthermore, Anderson said there’s a lot of reasons why people get diagnosed with cancer, however she did not have the gene for it after getting tested, but she in fact had a very stressful lifestyle.
“What I believe for myself is that it was stress induced. I wasn’t drinking the water like I was supposed to or exercising. I honestly may eat once a day because I was so busy and so my thing and the message that I really want to help other young people, we got to take a pause,” she said. “We are in extreme grind mode and have ambitious goals, but it’s going to mean nothing if you’re not there to receive it and achieve it. So, my biggest thing is we must mitigate our stress. It’s not to say it doesn’t exist at all, but it’s all about making sure we intentionally take the time to pause.”
To check out HER Wine, visit https://www.herwines.com.