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4 Times When I Could Only Thank Cancer

Cancer is really difficult, but if you look hard enough, you might find the perks.
PUBLISHED February 07, 2017
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.
Cancer sucks. It’s not a good thing. Let me be upfront about that. Sometimes, though, there are silver linings that accompany the hardest times in our lives. Below are a few examples that come to my mind as I’ve dealt with cancer over the years. So thank you, cancer. Jerk.

The G.I. Joes

As a kid I had one of the largest G.I. Joe collections in the entire neighborhood. My army of Joes was legend. Together we achieved peace through strength as other Joes and their leaders (kids) didn’t dare to engage in battle with my men and me in the muddiest of backyards throughout our free world – one whole neighborhood block. My Joes came courtesy of Vincristine and Mom. Without both, I would never have been able to amass such a large army of Joes. It simply worked like this: I was awarded one Joe for every completed chemo session, which was very much a battle of its own. Cancer, I really think you should consider playing with live grenades – but without you, I would never have had the opportunity to serve with scores of honorable men, like Duke, Grunt, Snake Eyes and Flamethrower.

The Free Lodging

I often received free lodging at the Ronald McDonald House in Atlanta after my many chemo sessions, and then later, at the Hope Lodge during my bone marrow transplant (Thanks, guys!). From what I am told, the Ronald McDonald House had a very nice kitchen, playroom and playground. However, the only thing I ever really remember seeing were the beds, the toilets and the washrags. Ugh! I could really punch your face, cancer, but thank you for the free nights at some really nice places with some really great people.

Steve Bartkowski

Surgery sucks. Surgery to find out exactly what’s going on with your cancer really sucks. However, after one particular surgery that sucked, the suck factor was greatly reduced due to a special visitor who dropped by my hospital room. That special visitor was none other than the great Steve Bartkowski. He gave me Falcons stickers, a mini football and hung around for a few. What more could a four-foot-nothing kid want? Cancer, you suck to unattainable levels. I really wish Steve could somehow body slam you onto cold, hard pavement, but thanks for providing me with the opportunity to meet Mr. Barkowski. Even though you might not think I’m cool, he did!

The Food

I’m not sure about other cancer patients, but when I went through chemo, eating was not at all my favorite thing to do. I would eat and get queasy; or sometimes, just bypass the queasy part and go straight to the pukey part. And, simply smelling some foods made me want to sprint to the bog. I lost weight I didn’t even have in the first place. However, two cool things came of this – money and a never-ending supply of the foods of my choice. The money thing may sound materialistic, but heck, my granddad was paying a buck per pound of bodyweight that I could gain. I was literally earning money to try to get fatter. No shame in that. It was just business, people. As for food, any request I made was usually met with a resounding, “Sure!” “Mom, I could eat some fried chicken. Can you make that?” “Sure!” “Granny, I only feel like I’m up for banana pudding tonight. Can you take care of that for me?” “Sure!” So here I was, making money to gain weight while eating desserts for dinner. I really hate your face, cancer, but thank you for stuffing mine.

So for those who are battling cancer, this includes family and friends, take time to look for the little bit of good in what feels like the whole lot of bad. Look for the silver lining and celebrate the small victories.

“Now you know, and knowing is half the battle.” – G.I. Joe
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