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?