It will be over before you know it," my mom and dad would say, like many people in my family, for example, my grandmother "Bamba" and my Granddaddy.
As a kid going through cancer treatment, sometimes, the fear and worry of what was to come—the unexpected—would consume me. I would become wrapped up in a continuous cycle of "what-ifs"—things I would visualize and play out over and over in my head.
I went to the hospital for many procedures and the clinic at Egleston in Atlanta, Georgia, for chemo regularly. In some way, I was used to it. But I could never get comfortable with the amount of sickness that came with my chemotherapy in the 80s.
The fear, worry, and anxiety were just always a part of my childhood back then. Just like I'm sure it was for many others.
There was one thing, though, that helped me get through it all. It was a showstopper and something that helped me change my focus. It was a "care package" from my grandparents, Bamba, and Granddaddy.
I can remember countless times, waking up early in the morning with Bamba and Granddaddy standing at the foot of my hospital bed—just a few moments before a procedure or surgery.
Bamba and Granddaddy always showed up on time to show their support. They were never late. Bamba always dressed for the occasion—a beautiful blouse and matching necklace with some earrings she found on a TV special—and my Granddaddy showed up the same as always—with a grin, and one of his favorite trucker-style hats tipped to the side.
My Grandaddy would always say with a smirk, "Ryan Q!" For those wondering, the "Q" meant "quick."
They knew I was nervous and uneasy. You could see it on my face and in my hands. But they also knew what else I had on my mind—seemingly the only thing that could bring me joy moments before surgery or some other dreaded hospital event—their care package—the Bamba Box as we now call it.
Now, I wasn't allowed to have this special care package before surgery, only after. That was the agreement. And, that's what made it exciting.
The Bamba Box was that one thing that took my mind off of any serious procedure that was just minutes from taking place. It gave me something to look forward to. Mostly because I never knew what was in it. Although, I did know there would most likely always be my favorite toy of all, the parachute man. He was a little plastic man with a parachute that could be thrown into the sky before floating back down to the ground—a parachute, something to save him. Well, that's if you did it right.
For one surgery on my abdomen, I clearly remember the promise of the Bamba Box. I remember the hints as I was wheeled out of the room on my hospital bed.
"It will be waiting on you when you get back," they'd say as we all waived at each other one last time.
Even as I was being wheeled down that hospital hallway to an ice-cold room behind big heavy doors, I focused on my special care package, the best I could.
I always knew when I had finally arrived at the location where the procedure would take place. It wasn't just my eyes and my ears that let me know, my body could feel it too. As the cold intensified, my body became chilled.
It was a place where medical professionals had to play two roles at once. The part of your best friend—someone who would tell you jokes and distract you from your fears. Then they also had to skillfully and simultaneously play the role of the professional who knew what was at stake—a position that required their very best performance.
As the doctors looked over the bed at me, talking and getting a reading on how I was doing, I'd scan random thoughts in my head of what my friends were doing back home, and I'd focus on my reward after everything was over.
The last thing I would remember about the procedure would be muffled voices from the medical staff and my blurry vision before waking up in recovery. Score, from here I knew what was next, ice chips—ice chips were next. But after that, it was straight back to my room to open my surprise lot of goodies.
The simple gift of the Bamba Box, as it's now called, led to anticipation that transformed fear and worries in some of the most challenging times of my life, into hope, joy and happiness.