The Day My Life Didn’t Change


I got the call all women dread on a Friday afternoon after a routine mammogram—they needed me to come back for more pictures, can’t tell me why over the phone. I scheduled the follow up for Monday, and settled in for a weekend of normal activities with a very disturbing subtext.

Follow up mammograms are all scheduled for the time the radiologist will be at the Breast Center. This is a kindness because women are given a result before they leave. They either get an OK, they are asked to stay for an ultrasound, or they are given even clearer bad news. “We can see a mass”, “we’ll need a biopsy in this area…” So the day I was there, this meant that everyone in the Breast Center was either actively getting treated for breast cancer or was wondering if they were about to begin. At one point there were three of us, all in our pink gowns, finished with our repeat mammograms and waiting for the result. We couldn’t get dressed because they may want even more pictures or an ultrasound. One woman sitting with me had been with someone I’m sure was her mother in the outer waiting area. She was visibly nervous now. I thought, “that was smart….bringing your mom”… but it made the experience far too serious for me to have asked someone along. And so I sat, wondering what the odds were that all three of us were going home with good news.

Waiting to hear if life is going to turn upside down. Have you had this experience? Waiting for one line or two to appear on a pregnancy test, receiving a college acceptance or rejection, or hearing the jury’s verdict. One way or another, this day was going to be the day that my life changed or it was going to be the day it stayed the same.

What I experienced in those moments of waiting was a mixture of fear and serenity. I felt acutely alive and present to all I was thinking and feeling. I sensed God’s miraculous involvement in the minute-by-minute unfolding of my life. And I felt a palpable identification with these two women who would not look up at me from their magazines.

In the end, one of us had to stay for an ultrasound, I got to leave with a clean bill of health, and I don’t know what happened with the third woman. For me, it was the day my life stayed the same. But I’ll have my day when life changes too. We all will, in some way. I suppose that the way we walk through the unchanging days somehow prepares us for the day life changes. In faith, I hope that when it comes, while I may not feel prepared, I will be ready. In the meantime, what does it mean to live the other days present and fully alive?


  1. Resonating… Last Friday, Gretch gave birth to our girl Perry… Such a powerful moment. We were alive to so many realities!

  2. I have experienced the day your life changes forever. March 2, 2009 the doctor called me in my office at work and told me he thought my daughter Anna had leukemia. I fell apart. The next thing I had to do was go home to tell her. It was the worst moment I ever had to face. She died two years later. In between we had hundreds of moments that were life changing.

    Now I feel numb. When the tornado hit our house ten days before her death, I had little reaction once I knew my husband and my other daughter were ok. Most people asked about the house and my grand piano and I didn’t care.

    The only thing that matters is health of your family. I never thought I would lose a healthy, wonderful daughter at the age of 23. Unfortunately, there are millions like us. They also got the phone call, the knock on the door….

    You never forget the feeling of that moment.

    1. Pam, thank you for sharing your experience of your day things changed. It fills out the picture for anyone reading and I know it will connect with so many.

  3. I too, have experienced the day your life does change forever. June 28, 2011, Joan, my wife of 32 years was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer. Despite a courageous fight and endless rounds of chemotherapy, she died 13 months later, holding my hand, surrounded by her family. She was absolutely awesome in every way and made a profound impact on the lives of every one she knew. While I am making strides in moving on, clearly my life has been changed forever. As I like to tell people, I am creating the new “normal”.

  4. It’s really true, Janice…what you said: ‘I suppose that the way we walk through the unchanging days somehow prepares us for the day life changes.’ We like to think change won’t happen until we want it to. But the older I get the more I realize you just can’t plan for most changes – death of a loved one, sickness, loss of job – and the choices we make now are shaping who we are becoming and how we handle those things. Whenever I think of this stuff I think C.S. Lewis and ‘The Great Divorce’ (have you read it?). Thanks for the post.

  5. Janice, thank you for sharing that. It means a lot to me in my (our) present situation. Keep us in yur prayers too.

  6. I am a regular reader of your blog (and love it). I live in Indiana, am a friend of Elise’s, and I teach emotional intelligence seminars (as a trainer) in the workplace for Indiana University. I have also experienced an event that changed my life forever. Upside down. Completely overturned. But here is a question for you: do you think people get pre-cognitive hints that things will change? I had a sense that something was going to happen before it did. (Of course, I am a strong NP (ENTP))…. I wonder if others have told you that they had a sense of “doom” or change coming their way…

    1. You know, that is a great question and I’m not sure of the answer. I do think that people who live more of their lives deeply aware and emotionally awake get the profound gift of a groundedness that could be experienced as a “hint”. For instance, if you go on a walk and have a moment of gratitude for your life and experience the awareness that it might change, then that is probably experienced as a hint of sorts when the diagnosis comes later.

      I hope that your upside down life is one in which you are able to truly live. And so sorry for the suffering I imagine that has come along with it.

  7. Thanks for the read! First-class story Many thanks a lot=) it is surely. My father has been seeking for this info. You’ve got to be psychic. You completely read my thoughts,

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