Cobra, baseball cards and two guys who always let me know I wasn't dead.
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.
With many of us who have been through cancer treatment, certain things can trigger unpleasant memories. The thought of a certain food might trigger nausea and in my case even the smell of my refrigerator can make me want to upchuck (read about it here
). Actually, even the word “upchuck” makes me want to upchuck. Over the years though, there have been other things that bring back some good memories during the times when I was sick. Without them, things would have been much worse.
The Goodie Bag
Starting at the age of 5, I was having all sorts of procedures and surgeries. These things were definitely nothing anyone should look forward to, unless you had my granddaddy. He was a guy that everyone loved, and I mean everyone. He was the guy that picked me up from school in the old Corvette when I was sick. He would also drive me out to Fort Benning to pick up a few Army items to cheer me up. I was obsessed with the military back then, probably because of his military background. My favorite thing he and my grandmother, “Bamba,” did though, was bring me “goodie bags.” It wasn’t just sometimes, it was after every surgery. These things actually made me forget that I’d basically been gutted and put back together. The “goodie bags” had G.I. Joe men, Pop Rocks, baseball cards and other things kids loved. The “goodie bag” will always stand out in my head as one of those things that got me through some rough times—and when I see a kid with G.I. Joe or baseball cards, I don’t have bad memories, only good.
As I alluded to above, I had a bad Joe habit growing up. I was the kid that did the whole, “send in 3 UPC codes” and get the limited-edition G.I. Joe thing. I was lucky enough to get Zartan, Duke, Hooded Cobra and Destro—and I’m kind of impressed that I can even remember that. I had a huge Joe collection, and a lot of it came from trips to Atlanta for treatment. That’s because on the way back home, many times as a reward, we’d stop at the huge Toys “R” Us store. They had every Joe and Joe accessory you could think of. I was allowed to get one Joe. Over time, I built an army – an army that fought many brave battles against Hooded Cobra, Destro and the evil Cobra Commander. Thanks, guys, for getting me through and sorry about the firecracker stuff.
The Crazy Guys
Then there was Uncle Jerry and Uncle Mike. These guys were and still are nuts. I remember waking up from surgery many times with them standing at the foot of my bed—and I knew I wasn’t dead because these guys weren’t angels. In 2012, after a huge scare that landed me in ICU, Uncle Jerry was there just being goofy like he does very well. Those are some good people to have around in serious times. I remember thinking, “OK, my legs are swelling, my heart is infected and I can’t get up and go to the restroom by myself, but if my uncle is cracking jokes, things can’t be too bad.”
Looking back, yes, I remember some really bad times, but I also remember some really good people who got me through.