Friday, June 03, 2005
Any Fall-Out Shelters Left?
I enjoy the sweet, mindless entertainment of the movie, Blast from the Past, with the adorable Brendan Fraser. In the movie, Brendan's character Adam and his parents have been locked in a fallout a shelter for 35 years after the father, played by Christopher Walken, thought the Communists had dropped a nuclear bomb. The shelter was a safe cocoon that protected them from nuclear destruction while allowing them decades of a normal life of home school and the ever-entertaining charades (but wouldn't they run out of book titles and movie titles?). Of course the fun ensues when Adam leaves the safety of the fall-out shelter to replenish the supply pantry.

Hmm. Are there any such shelters left? The fall-out from learning to live with cancer has me seemingly searching for a shelter where I can hide out until I feel my emotional pantry is stocked enough to surface. This is highly unlike me. I'm not a hider; I'm a confronter. As I struggle to discern this unprecedented change in psyche, I've begun to see a few signs pointing me in a certain direction (or is that omens?). Oh, I've ignored them as long as I can until I just can't stand getting smacked in the face repeatedly with the same message. I get it now. Can you hear me cosmos? gods of the universe? winds of change? higher power? Lord Almighty? Repeating the message now is starting to annoy me and does not necessarily facilitate acceptance.

It is as clear as the message sent to Dorothy by the Wicked Witch.


And while I would rather fantasize about a sub-surface cocoon in a nuclear-free zone, I realize the only way to survive (literally) is to surrender the fear and the fight for control that currently fill my emotional supply pantry.

From day one after my diagnosis, I struggled to control something that was so beyond my control. Once I understood the process, I made the schedule and had the various medical offices/personnel conform (in a very polite non-ogre sort of way). Any hint at deviation caused feelings of devastation until I could find a solution or a compromise. Who was I fooling? I was controlling a process and not the issue.

Now here I am. No treatment schedule. No treatment at all. In fact no evidence of disease. Nothing to control with the exception of the fear, the unknown, the remains of my personal nuclear devastation. What I have discovered is that the more I try to control this fear and this unknown, the worse it gets. The only possible fall-out shelter is surrender (thanks for the sign, Louise).

What does surrender mean? Giving up? (too defeated) Giving in? (too submissive) Mirriam-Webster defines sur-ren-der as

a : to give (oneself) up into the power of another especially as a prisoner b : to give (oneself) over to something

The haunting lyrics of Sarah McLachlan's song Sweet Surrender further sharpens the focus of the struggle.

I've crossed the last line
From where I can't return . . .

I miss the little things
I miss everything
It doesn't mean much
It doesn't mean anything at all
The life I left behind me
Is a cold room
And sweet Sweet Sweet surrender
Is all that I have to give

So what is the worst that can happen if I surrender? Does it rid me of the fear? Not really. Does it take away this incessant need to try to control it? Absolutely. In a sense, that relieves some of the fear. When things are out of control the fear only grows. Frankly, if I live in fear today, I have lost the day. Living in fear is not living. Rather than controlling it, I am actually being controlled by cancer.

So here I am, somewhat broken, a little more fragile than I once believed, emerging from my emotional fall-out shelter built of fear and control. I'll be gentle with myself as I build my cocoon of surrender and acceptance. Eventually the butterfly will emerge. Whole. Beautiful.
Written by Jeannette Vagnozzi
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Name: Jeannette
Location: Southern California, USA

This is my story about being diagnosed with breast cancer at age 39. I thought I was out of the woods, but four years late it came back. This is my quest to be a two-time survivor.

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