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What Happens in the 80s Stays in the 80s

This cancer survivor shares his experience with advancements in cancer treatment.
PUBLISHED April 21, 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.
At times I felt like I couldn't get warm enough. I'm not sure if it was from my nerves, the cold air in the chemo clinic or the chemo running through my IV and into my veins. Maybe it was from a combination of everything. The worst was yet to come, though — 24 hours of being dreadfully ill. That part usually started just a couple hours after treatment, when my mom and I got back to the Ronald McDonald house and into our room. She usually carried me in. Sometimes I tried to fool myself into thinking "this time" would be different, but all treatments back then ended the same way: with brutal sickness. That was my cancer treatment in the 80s, ghastly.

Back then, we tried everything to curb the effects of the chemo drugs' side effects, even hypnotherapy. Nothing seemed to work. Ever. I was almost 9 years old and taking on Hodgkin lymphoma for the second time.

I would have one more recurrence two years later and then go another 10 years before having my next.

In my junior year of college, I would be diagnosed with Hodgkin for the fourth time. As you can imagine, I was dreading it. And I especially wasn't looking forward to spending any more hours of my life throwing up and nauseated. This time around, I would take chemotherapy and go through a bone marrow transplant before being labeled as in remission.

When the time came to head to the Emory clinic in Atlanta to start my treatment, I was distracted, unsettled and anxious. I had not done this in 10 years. I had to quit a job I loved, temporarily drop out of college and get back into fighting mode once again. I was not exactly prepared for this detour. But who ever is?

As I sat in the clinic's waiting room to be called back for treatment, I thought of the treatment from years ago. I remembered the great people who helped make me comfortable, but I of course also remembered the awful treatments that made me so terribly sick.

When I was finally called back to get started on my chemo, I had no idea what to expect, but I expected the worse. I expected the same thing I experienced in the 80s, an intravenous beatdown. As my chemo nurse inserted my IV, she assured me that new drugs would squash my nausea – and they did. I was able to eat during treatment and walk out of the clinic by myself.

Things had changed. This definitely wasn't the chemo treatment I remembered from the 80s that put me in bed for hours dry heaving.

Today, I spend a good amount of time thinking about my health and the future. I'd be a fool if I didn't. But everyday, as I skim through news headlines about advancements in cancer treatments, I don't just see new medications for nausea. I see new drugs for the treatment of Hodgkin being approved, clinical trial opportunities and new treatment options for those with breast cancer, mesothelioma and glioblastoma. Ultimately, I see new hope for everyone battling and affected by cancer.

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