Getting dates while getting Adriamycin.
Ryan Hamner is a four-time survivor of Hodgkin lymphoma, a musician and a writer. In 2011, he wrote and recorded, "Where Hope Lives" for the American Cancer Society and the song for survivors, "Survivors Survive" used in 2015 for #WorldCancerDay. Recently, he published his book, This is Remission: A Four-Time Cancer Survivor's Memories of Treatment, Struggle, and Life, available on Amazon.
I’ve done the chemo thing plenty of times. Like I think I could put together my own regimen if I had to—a little of this orange stuff, a little of this stinky stuff. I’ve had chemotherapy so much, for so long, that I’ve actually forgotten when I started—that’s probably part chemobrain, too. I do know, however, it was somewhere in the early 80s—and I do know that as much as chemotherapy can suck, the suck-level of chemo in the 80s was exponentially suckier than when I had it in the 90s. Below are three times chemo in the 90s was way better than it was in the 80s.
1 - When I came out of retirement
In the 80s when I had my chemotherapy, it was just brutal all the way around. I remember sitting in a chair for hours. The nurses would come in and out to pump brightly colored liquids into my tiny IV, in my tiny hand. Occasionally my IV would blow and my hand would swell and burn for days. However, that wasn’t the worst part. The worst part was that as I sat there receiving my treatments, I would get overly-anxiously, severely depressed and eventually very ill. So ill that I’d have to be carried out of the joint—and as far as food went, ice chips and crackers baby, but 12 hours later.
That all changed in 1997 when I came out of retirement, or as others call it, “remission.” When I showed up for my first chemotherapy treatment since 1988, I was expecting more of the same—anxiety, depression and nausea—but surprise. Because of new drugs that were available, I was able to bypass all of the awful side effects of chemotherapy like I had in the 80s. The new drugs I speak of actually resulted in the next two items on my list.
2 - When nausea got choked out
Since I was given medication to basically put my nausea in a choke hold, I was able to eat. Yes, I was able to eat real friggin’ food. No ice chips and no crackers, 12 hours later. I actually ate a whole turkey sandwich, right there, sitting in my chemo chair getting chemotherapy on my first day back for therapy in 1997.
In the 80s, my parents would have to use code talk like, “hey I need to run to the car for a minute.” Yuh huh, right. Running to the car for a minute meant running out to quickly shove as much food into the face as possible. Now however, my parents could eat right in front of me without the smell of their hot dinner making me lose my hot lunch.
3 - When I got a date with that one girl
So there I was at the clinic. I was sitting in my chair, watching TV, eating a sandwich and getting chemotherapy. I was living large. The medicine had other side effects though, too. They would make me extremely friendly. I’d want to speak to everyone, flirt with the nurses and act like a hippie. I was 21. For this reason, I made a few new friends and actually landed a date with a girl—whose mom thought it was a bad idea because of my chances of dying or something. I don’t know—but hey there mom—it’s 19 years later and here I am. How are you?