When your cancer is just like the common cold.
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, 2surviveonline.com and drinks a ridiculous amount of coffee per day.
Have you ever had cancer? Was it the good kind of cancer or was it the bad kind of cancer – or did you even know there was a difference? Yeah I know, it sounds pretty ridiculous, right? The main reason it sounds ridiculous is, well, because it is.
I remember back in 2010, I was performing in Birmingham, Alabama, on my “Hear the Heart” tour. Shortly after my performance, I went back to my merchandise table hoping to sell some CDs and make some new friends. That is when I was unexpectedly greeted by a half-drunk, err, maybe totally drunk young lady. Actually, there wasn’t really any greeting exactly, just a short, “What type of cancer did you have?” I told her that I had battled Hodgkin lymphoma.
“Well, at least you had one of the good types of cancer,” she said. “That’s like treating the common cold these days.” “Bless her heart,” as they say in the South. (She didn’t buy a CD, either.)
“You mean I could have skipped that whole bone marrow transplant thing and just taken some Robitussin?” I asked. She didn’t even smirk. (Passed on the stickers too, only 25 cents.)
My new friend then went on to explain why Hodgkin lymphoma was better than other types of cancers. Yes, I get it. I could have had a more deadly type of cancer. Things could have been much worse for me. I’m very aware that I’m a blessed dude. However, telling someone that they had the “good” type of cancer is a little on the crazy side. It makes you sound like, well, like some totally drunk person at a music festival. Really though, it’s like saying, “Were you shot with one of those good types of bullets or one of the bad ones?” “It was the good type of bullet. Me and the shooter are meeting up later for drinks.”
In reality, I’m sure the girl didn’t mean any harm with her comments. As a matter of fact, I laughed. She was probably just intoxicated with the “good” type of alcohol, and that’s OK, but cancer is not, ever. There’s not one type of cancer that is good or OK. All the different types of cancers need to be throat-punched, repeatedly.
Breaking news, cancer is scary stuff. Yes, fortunately there are people who have certain types of cancer that are very treatable. That’s great. However, the fears and anxieties that a person will experience as a result of their cancer are completely relative to their perceptions and experiences. Keep that in mind when chatting with someone about their cancer, or you mind end up sounding like some totally drunk person at a music festival, without actually being some totally drunk person at a music festival.