How skateboarding helped get me through cancer treatment at age 11.
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.
I was at the gym the other day and in the middle of my workout, bam, it hit me in the face. No, it wasn't a dumbbell or anything like that crashing down into my forehead. It was a bunch of memories from the days of cancer treatment, all triggered by a man's T-shirt. He was wearing a Mike McGill T-shirt.
You see, as a kid, I was all about skateboarding. In particular, I was a fan of the Bones Brigade. They were a group of kick-butt skaters that I thought were some type of skate gods. And they were, to me, as I'm sure they were to a many other skaters as well. I'd spend hours flipping through Thrasher
magazines looking at these guys doing tricks on a halfpipe that probably broke the laws of physics. I really don't know, though, because I suck at physics. At any rate though, skateboarding was one of my escapes back then, along with baseball cards, but skateboarding really got me excited. I simply loved to catch air!
Me and my friends in the neighborhood often built ramps and jumped our skateboards off of them. Yeah, I know, pretty friggin' stupid, but we lived. Although one of my buddies broke his leg. It happens, ya know? I guess we were the "Broken Bones Brigade".
Anyway, immediately after seeing this guy's shirt the other day, I was taken back a few decades; not just to the days of skateboarding, but to the time when I was diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma for the third time, at 11 years old. I was a bit depressed, as you could imagine. I knew I would have to start chemotherapy again, get radiation, miss school, miss hanging out with friends, etc. But in order to make me feel better about all of this, my dad decided to buy me a new skateboard. And I picked none other than the Lance Mountain model skateboard – the very board used by a bonafide member of the Bones Brigade.
I usually have a hard time remembering, but I can clearly remember walking into the skateboard shop, OJ's, on the very day of my diagnosis – all 70 pounds of me, standing at the counter in my Airwalks, looking in awe at all of the skateboards on the walls.
"Just get the one you want," my dad said.
I didn't say a word, I simply gave him the, "For real?" look. Then I proceeded.
I built my dream board. The thing was totally decked out, complete with the coolest friggin' trucks and wheels. It was so nice, I was almost scared to skate on it.
It's amazing, the role this simple skateboard played in my life as an 11-year-old kid going through chemo. I can remember, sitting in that chemo clinic for hours, depressed. But all I had to do was think of when I'd soon be able to skate on my new board once I felt better. Those thoughts alone helped me do a 180, no bones about it.
And that's pretty rad!