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Um, I think I have cancer?

Stacey is a self-love and hydration enthusiast from Syracuse, NY. She carries the BRCA2 gene mutation and was diagnosed with ER+/PR+/HER2-, stage 2B invasive ductal carcinoma on Feb. 9, 2021 at age 36. She underwent a double mastectomy, 16 rounds of AC-T chemotherapy, reconstructive surgery, 28 rounds of radiation and is currently taking aromatase inhibitors for five to 10 years while in remission. She is an engineering manager and a single mother of two daughters.

Many of us folks in the cancer world share our diagnosis stories and commiserate over that fateful conversation that marked the “before” and “after” of the cancer journey. My story greatly deviates from the average story.

The day of my diagnosis, I had just finished up with a portion of my work and I went upstairs from my basement office to get some lunch. While I was warming my soup in the microwave, I decided to check my email. I saw that my test results from the biopsy I had the previous Friday were in and available for me to view. I thought to myself, “This must be a good sign because they would have called me if it were bad.”

I open up the document and see those three fateful words: “invasive ductal carcinoma” and I’m like, “Huh. Of the limited knowledge I have about cancer, I’m pretty sure anything ending in 'oma' means cancer.” I immediately look up at my husband at the time and say, “Um, I think I have cancer?”

To which he responds, “Are you serious? Why do you think that?” So I showed him the test results and we didn’t know what to do. I often tell my loved ones not to search their ailments on the internet and instead, visit the medical professionals to discuss and diagnose. But of course, the first thing we did was search “invasive ductal carcinoma” on the internet and realized that, yes, in fact it was breast cancer.

Having had two children, I remember the moment you learn you are pregnant and have to call the doctor to say, “Okay I have a baby growing in me, what do I do now?” I basically did that. I called the ordering doctor’s office and said, “Hi. I just read the results from my biopsy and I guess I have cancer? What do I do about this?”

The woman on the phone was horrified. She said, “How did you find that out?” I explained to her about the email and the test results. Turns out they were waiting to call me until they had scheduled an MRI but the results were uploaded before that could happen. It was a right-hand-doesn’t-know-what-the-left-hand-is-doing moment that I laugh about now. Instead of the gloomy appointment with the doctor who delivers the somber news, my email delivered that news to which my initial response was, “Um. I think I have cancer?”

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