How two crazy uncles have helped me through my battles with cancer, and eventually faced battles of their own.
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.
As a kid with cancer, I had people in my life who were nuts, just total friggin' nuts. One was my Uncle Mike, and the other was my Uncle Jerry. Now just so I'm clear, they weren't nuts in the drool on themselves kind of way, they were nuts as in the funny type of nuts. (You'll have to ask them about the drool stuff, though. Who knows, maybe?)
Both of my uncles were on the countryside. My Uncle Mike and his family lived out in a place we all called, "the country," and my Uncle Jerry owned a truck shop and often wore a cowboy hat. If that ain't country, I'll kiss your… never mind.
When you are a kid, you see guys like these two as invincible. They always show up when you're sick (sometimes in a jacked-up truck). They always do what they possibly can to make things easier, and in a large part, they often did this with laughter.
Heck, after my last emergency, just a few years ago, the one thing that stands out to me, besides the thought of maybe dying and not being able to get on the toilet by myself, is my crazy Uncle Jerry standing at the foot of my bed in ICU, cracking jokes.
I mean, there I was in ICU, tubes coming from everywhere, swollen with an infected heart – I had just been told I may have to be intubated, but my Uncle Jerry lightened things up by walking in, taking off his hat, throwing it on my head and making some sly remark. He usually always tried to get me to check out the "pretty nurses," too, and, I won't lie, I usually always did.
As I've gotten older, I've always seen these two guys in the same way, not the two angels at the foot of my bed after waking up from a surgery or procedure, but the two guys with mischievous grins coaching me to health so I could get out of the hospital and go act up a little bit. I'm all for prayer, positive thoughts, a serious chat and sticking to the rules, but look, the down-to-earth "let's-not-be-too-serious-even-though-you-can't-get-on-the-toilet" attitude can go a long way in helping you get through a health struggle (and back to getting on the toilet independently).
After years of encouraging me through my own health battles, these two guys have also had their own battles with cancer, and it hasn't been easy for them.
Just a couple of weeks ago, I played a different role: patient visitor.” I visited Uncle Jerry at the Hope Lodge where he has been staying while undergoing radiation treatment. It's amazing, after all he's been through, the guy was still laughing, still cracking jokes and still saying things that would make preachers want to share a Bible verse with him. That's my Uncle Jerry.