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Nikki’s Story: I’m Not Going to Let Cancer Steal My Sparkle

Two women dressed in pink, with matching accessories, smiling at a Komen 3-Day breast cancer awareness event. One wears glasses and a cap, and the other a bandana. they both have event badges.

Nikki Anderson’s cancer journey began with a uterine cancer diagnosis in her 30s, which was followed by a breast cancer diagnosis six years later. She celebrates her journey by fundraising for the Komen 3-Day with Team Sparkle, inspired by her own adage: “I’m not going to let cancer steal my sparkle.” This is her story in her own words.

I was 31 when I received my first cancer diagnosis.

It was uterine cancer. Because of my age, my doctors decided to do a partial hysterectomy and left my ovaries to help prevent early menopause.

Six years later, I was diagnosed with breast cancer.

I noticed a strange feeling in my nipple. That is the only way to describe it. There was no discharge, lump or discoloration – something just felt off. I mentioned it to my doctor during my annual visit, and since I had uterine cancer at such a young age, he suggested I undergo genetic testing. That’s when I learned I was positive for theBRCA2 gene mutation.

This came as a shock.  My doctor recommended I go ahead and schedule a mammogram. Six years to the day of my uterine cancer diagnosis, I learned I had ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS). Thankfully, the cancer was found at an early-stage, so my treatment wouldn’t require chemotherapy or radiation. A little over a month after my diagnosis, I had a double mastectomy with reconstruction.

 A woman in a hospital gown and mask stands with her back turned, looking over her shoulder in a curtained hospital room.

From the start, I knew that I would lose my nipples, and as I got closer to my surgery, I became concerned about it. It made me feel more self-conscious, and it weighed heavily on my mind.  I mentioned it to my doctor, and he was very callous and unsympathetic about my concerns. He told me not to worry; he did this all the time. It just sat on my spirit that I wasn’t comfortable with his bedside manner. The last thing I wanted to worry about was a doctor who didn’t take my concerns seriously. I got a second opinion.

I’m so glad I advocated for myself. The surgeon I ended up choosing was amazing. She did so much to help me, physically and mentally. She listened to my concerns and helped me come to terms with the changes to my body. I was going to look like Frankenstein’s monster under my clothes and I had to be OK with it. She helped me understand that the scars are proof that I have been through something significant and survived. I also felt so bad during the reconstruction process that I didn’t even care about losing my nipples; I became comfortable with my Barbie boobs.

I got a tattoo of the word “Sparkle” on my arm to remind me to be positive and let the world know that no matter what, I’m not going to let cancer steal my sparkle. And once I recovered from surgery, I knew I wanted to do something positive with my story. A week after my reconstruction, I participated in my first MORE THAN PINK Walk in Dallas.

The whole process of fundraising for the Walk made me think about how representation matters. I don’t look like the typical breast cancer patient – I’m a six-foot-tall, loud, LGBTQ+ woman of color with pink hair. I wanted to show those who feel they didn’t fit the mold that they were not alone in their journey.

In 2021, I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. I was thankful that, once again, the cancer was found early, and surgery was the only treatment required.

As I was going through this third cancer, I had a moment where I was like: “I’m fighting for my life, and I’m not happy with the life I have.”  So, I just decided to restart everything and go from there. Cancer took me out of my comfort zone, and I looked for something I could do that would keep me out of my comfort zone and allow me to give back. I registered for the 2022 Komen 3-Day in Dallas. I was joined by my Aunt Brenda and close friends Deb and Shari; they were truly rock stars for committing to take this crazy, 60-mile journey with me.

On the first day, I was the first person in the medical tent. I was devastated and didn’t think I’d get to continue. I came back on the second day, and my aunt and I made a pact that no matter what, we’d cross the finish line together and we did.

I love the Pink Bubble and all that it means. That year, we walked through east Dallas, which is where I live. We walked by the lake where I cried after my diagnosis. We walked past the facility where I was diagnosed with cancer, the hospital where I had my surgery and my oncologist’s office. I finally got to give myself the closure I needed. I walked past all those places that were connected to so much sadness and was able to create a happy memory and celebrate all that I’ve been able to do. I participated in the 2023 3-Day, and I am registered for the next one in November.

Cancer is just a chapter in my book. It’s not the whole book. It’s a lot of chapters, but I still get to celebrate every day that I’m still here and I’m thriving.

Statements and opinions expressed are that of the individual and do not express the views or opinions of Susan G. Komen. This information is being provided for educational purposes only and is not to be construed as medical advice. Persons with breast cancer should consult their healthcare provider with specific questions or concerns about their treatment.