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Totally Tubular: Coping in the 80s

When I was a kid, my Walkman helped me through my chemotherapy treatments.
PUBLISHED April 16, 2018
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.
It was the 80s. Dude, it was rad, awesome and totally tubular. I watched the A-Team, Dukes of Hazard, Little House on the Prairie, MTV and cartoons every Saturday morning. I even wore jams (just Google it). I rode my BMX bike with my brother, played army in the woods and jumped my skateboard off of ramps almost twice as tall as me.

I specifically remember riding my Lance Mountain skateboard that my dad had bought me in a move to cheer me up on the day I found out I had Hodgkins again. I would need to go through treatment for the third time – not totally tubular.

Other than the cancer, skateboarding, biking, TV time and other things were great. They were the fun things I did to get through the not-so-fun things, cancer treatment. However, one of the biggest things I'll always remember from the 80s was my beat-up Walkman cassette player. (Yes, I said Walkman.)

Even before I played guitar, sang and wrote songs, I loved music. And I thought my Walkman was totally tubular. Even though it was about three times the size of a smartphone and the cassettes that it played could only hold a fraction of the songs, my Walkman helped me get me through some seemingly impossible times.

Growing up, I always listened to the radio and bought the one-dollar cassette singles at the music store. Because in those days, downloading just wasn't a thing. Also, my brother and I recorded songs off of the radio onto cassette. It was a hobby of ours. We would sit there and try and catch that rad song as it started to play on 107.3, I believe it was. I'm sure we broke some copyright laws.

My treatments would take forever in the 80s. I remember sitting in a cold leather chair, wrapped in a warm blanket at the chemo clinic in Atlanta. My mom would usually be sitting there with me.

The chemo nurses were all attentive and as nice as they could be. I can remember CJ and Jennifer. They gave me hugs, knew me by name and smiled as they started my IVs. But we all knew how it would play out in the end – and they knew that I knew.

Surrounded by the smell of alcohol, the cold air of the clinic, the sad looks on other kids' faces and the anticipation of getting sick again after treatment, I had to tune out. I would pull out my Walkman and listen to my cassette tapes. Many times, I listened to the songs my brother and I had recorded just days before or just my favorites - The Police, Tears for Fears, Van Halen and others. I did this for hours … or until I fell asleep.

It may sound ridiculous, but the only thing I looked forward to during my treatment, other than it being over, were the songs playing on my Walkman. Still today, hearing certain 80s songs reminds of specific trips to the chemo clinic in Atlanta.
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