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Never Put Becoming a Ninja Before Going to the Doctor for Cancer

Cancer symptoms: If you feel something, say something.
PUBLISHED February 28, 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. Currently, he operates his website for those affected by cancer, and drinks a ridiculous amount of coffee per day.
Back in 1994, I had just turned 18-years-old. I had recently finished high school and I thought I was cool and stuff—actually, I was pretty cool, and I knew absolutely everything. (Insert chuckle.)

For a few years, I had been simply “watching” a lymph node on my neck. I didn’t have time to take action—err want to take action. Pretty ridiculous when you consider the fact that I had already had Hodgkin lymphoma three previous times, since the age of five-years-old.

I had just started playing in a band, had a good group of friends, was going to college, was in the process of trying to become a ninja and had a cool job at the mall chasing shoplifters. No, I didn’t wear a mall security uniform. Let’s just clear that up. No offense to those who do.

So with my cool life at the time, why would I choose to give it all up for a possible cancer diagnosis? I mean, who gives up ninja training for chemotherapy? Nobody! Definitely no ninjas that I know of (I honestly don’t know one single ninja just to be honest though).

As time went by, I just watched this little lymph node in my neck. What was I waiting on? I literally have no idea—but one day it hit me like a punch in the face, “Ryan, dude, go get your neck checked,” I said. You know how it is. Sometimes when you aren’t doing the things you should be doing, you are the first one to tell yourself to get with the program. Having said that, I’ve had many discussions with me.

Finally, after scolding myself for being irresponsible, I decided to get serious about my little friend that was living on the side of my neck, that jerk. I booked an appointment with my doctors in Atlanta, Georgia—and after a few tests, we determined that indeed, I had Hodgkin lymphoma, again.

When I first received the news, I cursed. Next, I accepted it all and cursed a little more—OK, fine, I cursed a great deal and may have even thrown a few items. But what if I had not made the decision to go get checked out? What if I kept putting it off? What if I had put my garage band “career” ahead of my health—or chose to focus on learning to scale walls and become a ninja over finding out the truth about my neck? Well then that one little jerk on the side of my neck might have become a bigger jerk, and you know what happens from there. OK, now I’m just getting a little ridiculous (bad habit), but the point is this, don’t ever wait to get checked. Your garage band career and ninja training can always be put on hold. If you feel something, say something.
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