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Cancer Treatment, Resilience and a Brother Made of Concrete

Can fitness make you physically prepared for a medical detour?
PUBLISHED June 18, 2019
Ryan Hamner is a four-time survivor of Hodgkin lymphoma, a musician, and an award-winning author. 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. His website is

Like many other patients with cancer, I was blasted with radiation to the chest back in the eighties. It did the trick as far as snuffing out some cancer, but it also did a few other things as well, such as giving me a few heart issues, as I've written about before.

In 2015, I was told by one of the best doctor's in the valvular disease business (yes, it's a thing) that I would definitely need a new heart valve within five years. I'm into lots of "new" types of things, but I'll pass on the heart valves if I can.

It is of course now 2019 and just recently I heard from my cardiologist that my valve is totally unchanged – the ticker is performing very well.

Now, why has my heart valve remained unchanged? Was the doctor just simply off a little? I guess that's possible. But I have my own theories. One of those is that because of exercise and eating well, I've managed to keep myself healthy. Yes, I know, I'm preaching about the whole exercise and diet thing, sorry.

Let me just say, this exercise thing isn't exactly new for me. I once wrote about my dad buying my first weight set when I was nine years old. It was a little blue weight set from Service Merchandise. Then, years later, my brother who is made of rocks or something like that (maybe concrete), got me on a steady workout and diet plan.

Through treatment, intermittent sickness, surgeries and miscellaneous procedures, I've always maintained some level of exercise. Exercise for me includes weightlifting, short burst cardio and the treadmill. Of course, when I was laid up in bed during my bone marrow transplant in 1998, killing it on the punching bag and doing squats wasn't an option. But, a little bit of regular walking and two-pound dumbbells were.

Without a doubt, the exercise routine has always brought me out of weakness after any procedure into a place of strength, health, and mental positivity.

Throughout all of the craziness my body has endured, today, at this moment anyway, I probably feel the best I've ever felt.

Even if exercise and diet has had nothing to do with extending the life of my "faulty valve," still, I know when it is time to face another procedure, such as a corrective heart procedure, I will be much stronger both physically and mentally.

So if you are a survivor, I already know that you are strong, and if you don't already have an exercise routine, I hope you'll take that first step towards feeling better physically, mentally and being prepared for the future, which is hopefully nothing less than a healthy one.

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