Surrender is the not the same as giving up

Our view from our country cottage.

Ahh! Our view from our country cottage while visiting Brown County, Indiana.

The serenity prayer is a great source of comfort to me. It says it all to me:  “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

For many years, I’ve been hitting heavy on “the courage to change the things I can” part. The acceptance thing is what trips me up a lot of times. There has just been so many unacceptable things thrown my way – a terminal diagnosis, cancer progression despite doing everything in my power to contain it, friends dying left and right. How do you accept that? I went into this with a full-power-on, fix-it approach. I changed everything in my life and refused to accept my imminent demise. After all, my first words upon hearing I was going to die from stage IV breast cancer seven and a half years ago were, “I’m too stubborn to die.”

It has served me well, and I’m glad that I have taken proactive steps to prolong and improve my quality of life. Now, however, I’m seeing that always being in hyper vigilant fighting mode isn’t holding up as well. It’s like doing everything you can to prepare for a hurricane, but the damn storm is too severe and it blows away your house anyway. I feel battered, beaten and frightened after the deaths of my friends and solid mentors Krysti Hughett and Darlene Gant. My fear has been stoked after some bad scans and dealing with the uncertainty of whether this clinical trial will work. On top of that I’ve been feeling like crap. For two weeks, I’ve experienced nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, heartburn and constipation. I feel like the person Rosanne Rosannadanna talks about on Saturday Night Live. If you need a good laugh, watch it HERE. As she said, “It just goes to show you, it’s always something.”

The word “surrender” is upon my lips. But it’s not giving up; it’s admitting I can’t do this on my own anymore. I don’t have all the answers. For me, it means turning to God and people around me to help. Sometimes it means sitting quietly like Mike and I did this week. After dropping off Chrissy at Camp Kesem, we rented a cabin in Nashville, Indiana, which sat on 23 beautiful acres, and spent two days watching hummingbirds, deer and even a groundhog as the wind blew through an ancient sycamore tree. Most of the time, we were on the back porch or adjacent hot tub and at night sitting around a campfire. It was incredibly healing for both of us. It was a break that we really needed and gave me time to think.

I believe that when I stop trying to control and solve everything, I allow space for God to do its work. I open myself up for miracles to happen. I soften the hard edges, and I can feel my body relax. And that in itself allows healing. I stop trying to stuff down my feelings with busyness, TV, food and allow them to come. I am finally having some good cries. I was wondering if I forgot how to do that. And I feel better afterwards. I’ve even had some good laughs like I do when I think of the Rosanne Rosannadanna clip. My talk about pooping or not pooping have been a constant lately. I can’t even imagine how Mike can find me attractive anymore!

My feelings don’t have the power to kill me. I don’t sink into a deep depression like I’ve had in the past. They are just feelings, and when I allow them, they pass.

And that acceptance even applies to (pause, gulp)  – the fear of death. I’m not quite there yet, but I’m exploring that, too. I can surrender to the fact that I can die from this. I don’t know when and I don’t know exactly how. Accepting it doesn’t mean I’ve lost hope. It’s just there. How can it not be after seeing so many friends die? But I don’t have to slam the door whenever the thought or fear comes knocking. I can acknowledge it, even allow it to visit for a while, then ask it to leave. Because my focus is still on living and loving the good times and the bad. There is so much beauty in life that I don’t want to miss. And it’s this knowledge of death that helps me not take any of it for granted.


  1. tamilb
    Aug 6, 2015

    Thanks Sam! I think surrender applies to all situations; not just cancer.

  2. Sam Elliston
    Aug 6, 2015

    I loved seeing the pictures of you and Mike and Indiana on Facebook. So glad to know you were getting the peace you deserve.
    This article is honest, clear, poignant and full of hope for all of us. I have always found surrender to be the hardest part of recovery.
    Thanks for reminding me how it CAN work and will if I allow myself to feel.

  3. tamilb
    Aug 6, 2015

    I love your words Marie! Trusting God is scary sometimes but I’m open to surprises.

  4. tamilb
    Aug 6, 2015

    Thanks Dianne. I’m so sorry Terri is going through all of this. Hugs and love to you and your family.

  5. Marie
    Aug 6, 2015

    So beautifully written. And I especially reasonated with giving space for God to work. So amazing. And often what God comes up with is something unexpected that we could never orchestrate. (Though I always hesitate to count on that and am constantly surprised when it happens.) Blessings and light to you.

  6. Dianne
    Aug 6, 2015

    Hearing the word death in connection with my sister-in-law recently caused many new and difficult emotions for me. I think you are brave and wise to think of surrendering. You are not surrendering the will to live, but to the fact that our future is not always within our power to control. I’m so happy that this has helped you find some peace and serenity. Wish I were there to give you a hug. Just know that I’m praying for you and your family daily. Thanks for being an encouragement to Teri and all the other fighters out there who are facing this horrible disease.

  7. tamilb
    Aug 5, 2015

    Big hugs to you Teri! I know it’s hard. We just keep on pushing on.

  8. Terri
    Aug 5, 2015

    So glad you got to have some alone time with your man. I could use some of that too. It’s been a particularly difficult season of losses for me as well and if I can be honest, I’m sometimes jealous of those who’s struggle at life ends. Not for long but sometimes I get so tired. It’s harder at moments of loss but the thought of just letting it all go is so freeing.

  9. tamilb
    Aug 5, 2015

    Thanks so much Susan! Your empathetic words mean so much to me! Prayers back at ya!

  10. Susan Zager
    Aug 5, 2015

    Tami this is so beautifully written. I admire your approach to everything and all your thoughts and feelings are important to express. These events combined especially with all of the treatments, scans, changes, questions of trials, and then death of close friends…It’s just a lot.
    I was so sorry about you’re friend Krysti. I didn’t know her but I did know Darlene Gant, and I was feeling sad even though she got more time with her family. It wears on us.
    Yes surrender can really help the fear because we can accept what events are happening in our lives and that’s a great way to approach. I must learn this too!
    I am so glad you were able to go away with your husband to the cabin. Enjoy the moments and follow your heart.
    You are in my thoughts and prayers. Hugs and xoxo – Susan

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