Rebecca Hamilton is a former pro-abortion activist and leader. As the Oklahoma Director of NARAL, she helped establish the first abortion clinic in Oklahoma, and she continued her activism after being elected to the Oklahoma House of Representatives. After experiencing a profound conversion to Christ, voters returned her to office as a pro-life Democrat and she spent twelve years defending life and families in the Oklahoma Legislature. Rebecca left her political career in 2014, and along with the National Catholic Register, she writes at Patheos on her blog Public Catholic.
I’ve been trying to find my way back into writing for quite a while. It isn’t easy.
Every time I think I’m moving forward, I fall down. I get sick again; not cancer sick, but too sick to do anything. I get colds, kidney infections, gastrointestinal thingies, then I get another cold, and so on and so forth.
Each little illness — and these things come at me like they were being fired from a repeating rifle — takes the little bit of pizazz that I’ve mustered and smashes it flat. I have to rebuild my stamina, and yes, my interest in the world outside the confines of my personal life, all over again. Then, just as I’m peeking over the rim, I get hit with another illness.
These things take me down in a way that colds and such have not in times past. I don’t remember ever missing a day’s work over a cold or a kidney infection. No matter what happened, my verve for doing kept right on keeping on. It has fueled me all my life. But cancer extinguished that verve in a deep, deep way. My focus switched to an all-out fight for my life.
In addition to wearing me down, cancer shifted the things I care about. What mattered to me, in fact all that mattered, was Jesus, my family and a few friends. Whatever verve I had left went to cuddling my granddaughter and taking my Mama out for drives.
There was a time — quite a long time — when I could do neither. In fact, there was a period of at least a couple of weeks where my memory was so drug-laden that it’s just a spotty series of scenes that I sort of remember.
I had one tough instance of runaway high blood pressure. I had daily visits from nurses for a few weeks. They were wonderful and probably saved my life when the blood pressure went wacko. The nurse caught it and went to bats with the docs that they had to do something about it. I don’t remember a lot of things, but I do remember her telling a doc “You have to act. I will not leave this patient in this condition. I don’t want a mastectomy to stroke out on me.”
The odd part of that memory is that a friend of mine was Rebecca-sitting during this whole event. She came to my house each morning as my husband was leaving for work and stayed with me all day. I remember we watched movies and that she helped me strip drains and such.
Later, when I was trying to remember the big mess with the blood pressure, I asked her, “Were you there when that happened?” She smiled and said, “Yes, I was.”
Another time, I was telling her about how heavy my Kirby vacuum cleaner is and bragging that I had been able, for the first time in a long time, to vacuum my living room floor. She smiled and said, “I used that vacuum to clean your house when I was taking care of you.” I have no memory of that.
There’s a lot I don’t remember, and a lot I do. For instance, I remember my husband, sons and several girlfriends of mine, sitting in the room with me while the nurse put in IVs. I remember introducing them to one of the docs, and one of my girlfriends telling him, “We’re the team. We’re team Becky.”
And they were. My husband took off work, went with me to every single doctor’s appointment, stayed overnight in the hospital with me and took vacation time to stay home and care for me around the clock. One friend came over every day for a week to give me sponge baths. Other friends brought meals.
I had a priest friend who said Masses for me, another friend who arranged a Mass for me, and more of you than I know who prayed for me. You sent cards and emails, each one of which was like a ray of sunshine to me.
One thing that has been weighing on me for a long time is that I haven’t thanked you. I can’t thank you enough. There are no words for that. But I want you to know that I felt your prayers and that those prayers worked.
If anyone had told me before this happened that God would use cancer to bless me, I wouldn’t have understood. I believed that God turns bad to good. I clung to that thought in the early part of the illness. It isn’t that I wouldn’t have believed what they said. But I wouldn’t have been able to envision what such a blessing would be.
Then, I experienced Him doing exactly that. He did use cancer to bless me. He blessed me with friends and family, including you good people who are reading this, who prayed for me and helped me in every way they could. That in itself was a great healing to me.
But He didn’t stop there. He rained down graces on me. I’ve mentioned that whenever I prayed for courage, He gave it to me. He also gave me the peace that passes understanding, and He gave me a profound intuition that I called “The Knowing” of the extent of my cancer.
This understanding was outside what the docs saw in their scans or biopsies. I knew, almost from the beginning, that the cancer was far more extensive than what they were seeing. It was no surprise to me that pathology reports from the mastectomy showed more extensive disease than previously known. This pushed me to do what I had to do to save my life.
Will the cancer come back? Who knows?
I’m not worried about it, even though I know full well that, with cancer, nothing is ever certain. However, worrying about cancer is not my task for the time I have left. My task is living for Him and loving Him.
I’m doing my best to start writing again, because I think I still have something to contribute to the greater good. But it is a challenge. I cycle up and have the pizazz necessary to write, and then, I cycle back down. I get myself going on exercise, healthy eating, enough sleep, and I start feeling good. Then I get some fool illness.
Of course, I also cycle back up in a few days and I get over the illness and wind my way back to trying to rebuild my health. There’s an up for every down.
But it’s been impossible to maintain a steady effort in anything.
Added to that is my changed perspective. I’ve become indifferent to most of the things that matter to everybody else. I care about following Christ because I owe Him so much and love Him so much. I care about people because I have discovered that I love almost everybody now.
I also care about the great cloud of evil hovering over the world today, the vile malice that lurks in every corner and is making people so crazy and mean. That is, at core, what’s wrong with American politics. It’s why we’ve ended up with such bad choices at the ballot box.
I believe without doubt that this nation, as well as the rest of the world, is under satanic assault. Time was, Old Scratch hid himself behind the lie that he didn’t exist, that the devil and all his works were dark fairy tells used to scare adult children. The devil hid and worked entirely through people to do his work.
But lately, he’s been stepping from behind the curtain and taking off his mask. Satan is appearing as himself and his followers are unashamed to say his name.
At the same time, more and more of Jesus’ “followers” avoid saying His name. They carefully edit their speech to avoid offending anyone who might not want to hear the name of Jesus spoken out loud.
I care about this. And I know the cure. We have to follow Christ.
Somehow this cancer worked a deeper conversion on me. I slipped the bonds of everything in this world and turned myself over to Him completely.
I care more than I can say about the tragedy of this election cycle. But I find myself impatient with those who keep seeking answers in the veniality of the candidates, the tissue paper of party platforms and the compromises of partisan politics.
How far down do we have to go before Christians learn that the only answers are at the foot of the cross? What will it take to make them forsake the false idols of party politics?
I am trying, as hard as I can, to stand up again, to rejoin the fight. But I know that I will never again see things the way I did before. We must love one another. And we must forgive one another. And we must follow Jesus without any equivocation.
If you want to follow Him, go home. Go home to your family and your loved ones and take care of them. Cherish the people who cherish you. If He wants you to do more than that, He’ll tell you.
But rest assured, so long as your heart is full of hatred and you are placing your faith in partisan politics to convert the world, you are not following Jesus.