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 have another “mass.” My biopsy is scheduled for this Friday — Good Friday.
I’ve asked a number of people to pray, and their first response has been “how can that be?” I had a bilateral mastectomy, and in their minds, that removed all risk of breast cancer.
But cancer doesn’t give guarantees. Or rather, it gives one guarantee, and that is that it will hang over you like the Sword of Damocles all the rest of your days.
None of this means that I am back in the cancer soup again. I may learn next week that this thing is something other than cancer. That is a real possibility.
But even if it turns out to be a benign something-or-other, I still get to have more fun and frolic with doctors. I still have to consider the what-ifs of this disease all over again. If the cancer has gone off and made an appearance somewhere else, then those “what-ifs” are both simple and existential to the max.
Once again, if I am afraid, I do not feel it. And, once again, I’m using this situation to spring people from Purgatory. I believe that my illness earned a way out for quite a few good souls last year. That’s a good feeling.
I got this good news Monday. I almost cried when I was lying on the table while being scanned and saw the look on the face of the person doing the scanning. There were tears, wanting to leak out.
But I didn’t. I sniffled a bit later that evening, while I was working in the kitchen, but that’s been it with the crying. I’m not being stoic. If I needed to cry, I would. I just haven’t.
The first couple of days, I was blue and angry. I mean really, I-want-to-be-left-alone blue-and-cursing angry.
I had actually begun to think I might be on the road to years of cancer-free time. It took me a while to get there, but I had started thinking I could exhale and just live for a while.
That’s why I was so angry. I lost that little bit of lightness Monday and I was angry about having it snatched away.
But I was never afraid. I’m not afraid now. I’m also not blue and angry anymore. I’m at peace today. And happy.
I would like more time to play with my precious granddaughter and be a positive influence on her life. I want to play with my wonderful husband, to take trips and do things we like and enjoy the gift of our lives.
But if my time is nearer than all that, I know Whom I have believed, and I am confident that He is able to keep that which I have entrusted to Him against that day. I don’t doubt that what’s waiting for me there is better than any joy I can imagine here. I am so looking forward to seeing Jesus face to face, whenever that time comes. I look forward to being free of these earthly bounds and living as an innocent and beloved child again.
If this turns out to be the cancer, doing its deadly thing, I will have a lot of research to do before I decide what treatments I will allow. I am fixed on the idea that if a treatment won’t give me good time or ease pain and suffering, I don’t want it. I’ve seen too many cancer patients sacrifice their last opportunity to enjoy life to the wretched misery of medical treatments that may, actually, have shortened their lives, and that certainly made what was left of their lives a little taste of hell.
I’m all for fighting for life. I think that is the duty of all life, to fight to live. But I want to extend my life, not my dying.
These are all interesting thoughts for this Holy Week. Our poor Savior’s plaintive cry “Can’t you watch with me for one hour?” is a voice from the Alone; the deserted and abandoned. Even though His friends were right there beside Him, they slept rather than watched. They seemed to have no idea what was coming, and they certainly did not share in His misery.
I, on the other hand, am surrounded by love. My husband has a harder time talking about this and facing it than I do. My friends are ready to do whatever I need. One friend has already offered to hop in her car and hit the interstate to be with me Friday. I am held up with prayer and love from all directions.
But there is a version of the Alone in any situation like this. Or there could be. No one else will lie down on that table with me. No one else will face the existential realities it raises.
No one except Jesus. He wipes all vestiges of the Alone entirely away and replaces them with the surety of an eternity of love. But it is much more than a promise of eternal life that sustains me and gives me peace. It is His Presence, right here with me, now, as I type this. It is the Holy Spirit Who is such a sure companion that I don’t feel ecstasy at His presence anymore. What I feel instead is the same sure, calm reality that is my husband’s love, my mother’s love, my Daddy’s love.
He will take care of me, and I know it. I am not alone, not even in the tiny cracks and crevices of existential reality where my loved ones cannot go with me. Because He is there. He is so completely there.
I have another biopsy Friday, and I am not afraid. I have prayed over and over what Jesus prayed that night: Father, if it is Your will, let this cup pass from me. But I am at peace with whatever happens. Because I know Whom I have believed.
And He is here with me, right now, and for the duration.