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Goats, Fishing and Cancer

How I escaped from cancer as a kid.
PUBLISHED June 12, 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.

With cancer, sometimes the hardest time can be finding peace – a place to just be, without all of the noise and distractions – probably because when meandering through the perplexities of cancer treatment, your head can spin, which should not be confused with something much cooler, known as the head spin (it was a thing in the 80s).

For me, while going through cancer, many times I felt like I was in a hurry, late for some place or like I had forgotten something. With chemo brain, as you may know, many times I probably did actually forget something. Anyway, maybe these feelings were because with cancer comes many doctor's visits, tests, treatments and unscheduled surprises like infections, and well, vomiting – lots of vomiting. Growing up, though, I found a place to escape to. It was called, "the country."

The country was simply code for my cousin's place out at my Aunt Nancy and Uncle Mike's in…well, it was in the country, of course. For me, it offered everything a kid could possibly want. It had acres of green pasture, two lakes for fishing, woods to roam through playing army, plenty of targets for BB gun practice and two cousins ready to climb trees, get chased by cattle and catch catfish together.

There was also a huge selection of animals. At times, it almost seemed like the ark landed there and the animals settled in, but no, my Aunt Nancy was just a friend to every animal she came in contact with.

I can remember horses, cattle, goats, rabbits, fish, birds, chickens, cats and even a squirrel. Interestingly enough, though, my aunt didn't catch the squirrel, I believe it just kind of walked up to her one day and was like, "Hey, I hear you have a place for guys like me to stay." And, that's kind of like what I did one time.

You see, I was in need of a break, a getaway from cancer treatment and everything that goes with it. In the 80s, it was much different. Treatment was just brutal. My treatments meant merciless sickness. I dreaded it, every single time and it was wearing on me.

As a break and an escape, I got to stay out in the country for about a week. I know, today many kids have to have their cell phones, access to Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to feel complete, but waking up as a kid to the green pastures, the animals and the sunshine was all I needed back then.

At that time, things were hard, real hard, but sometimes, the simplest things got me through. During that one week, I have memories of roaming through the woods and catching and throwing back fish, but I also have a treasure of memories I can never throw back.


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