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The Call I Wasn’t Expecting

In late 2020, Emily Zarecki learned she had breast cancer. This is her story in her own words.

In October 2020, I had my annual mammogram. Like the year before, I wasn’t surprised to hear I needed to have a breast ultrasound. Dense tissue was the problem. Test results showed a mass that I was told most likely was benign. I was worried but breathed a sigh of relief. I’d need a biopsy to confirm it was benign. The day after the ultrasound-guided biopsy, I got a notification the result was in the patient portal. So, of course, I immediately went to read it! I scrolled through the report not fully understanding what I was reading. From what I gathered, I thought everything was okay.

On Oct. 28, 2020, I was expecting to receive a call from my doctor’s office to say everything was fine and I’d have another mammogram next year. When the phone rang, I was ready to hear the familiar voice of an office assistant I had talked to many times. I was surprised when the voice on the other end of the call was my nurse practitioner. I didn’t process the first few things she said to me because it wasn’t supposed to be her voice I was hearing. I heard the phrase invasive ductal carcinoma. I interrupted her and said, “Wait, are you saying I have cancer?” That’s exactly what she was saying…I had breast cancer.

I ran to tell my husband what I’d just heard. We were in shock. Everything was supposed to be okay. We pulled up the report of the ultrasound again, and there it was in bold type … invasive ductal carcinoma. I didn’t process those three words when I read it the first time. I just scrolled right by.

My head was spinning. Days later, my husband and I were at a cancer center to meet with an oncologist. I learned there are different types of breast cancer. Although we caught mine early at stage 1, the cancer was HER2+. It’s an aggressive cancer. Treatment would have three phases and last one year. The first phase was chemo. My heart sank when I heard I’d have to have chemo. But, if I was going to beat this, I had to do it.

Here’s a look at my journey so far:

My journey continues with more antibody treatments through November. But, on May 13, 2021, I got a call from my surgeon—I have no evidence of disease!

I’m beyond blessed with the love and support I’ve received from family and friends. I’m still struck by the generosity of so many people who sent flowers and gift baskets ordered dinner or delivered food to our door. There are a few of these lovely, generous people I haven’t talked to in years but here they were bringing us dinner after my surgery.

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.