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 www.ryanhamner.com
This is what surviving cancer sounds like.
In 2011, a year after going on tour to perform and speak to those affected by cancer on my "Hear the Heart" tour, I wrote and recorded the song, "Survivors Survive." However, the way the song came to be wasn't exactly the best way possible, and I don't even mean because it was a song deeply connected to cancer. At the time, a nasty situation with a corporation led to me losing my main song for cancer survivors, so I had to write another one, and I did - "Survivors Survive."
Sometimes when I write songs, I get overly analytical or I question every word that is written. Wait, is it sometimes or all of the time? Maybe it's half the time or 75 percent of the time. I'd really need to think about it. Anyway, with writing a song also comes refining the lyrics. It has always been a never-ending job for me. "Wait, that doesn't sound right. I should just rewrite that altogether," However, with my song, "Survivors Survive," I just wrote exactly what I was thinking and feeling. My goal was to put together a simple anthem of sorts, for cancer survivors — and I did it fairly quickly.
The first line, "Not a day goes by, that you don't think of the time, they told you all was OK, go live your life now you're fine," is a line that I think most cancer survivors can relate to. I think all of us know when that time was that we were set free to go back to our "normal" lives before cancer. Unfortunately, not everyone who battles cancer makes it to this point, but for those of us who do, we remember that exact moment when we knew we were getting that second chance, or in some cases, a third or fourth chance.
After hammering out the song, I booked some studio time with producer and engineer, Jeff Tomei, in Atlanta. Jeff had worked on my previous record and is known for his work with bands such as Matchbox Twenty, Smashing Pumpkins and Edwin McCain, to name a few.
I remember Jeff emailing me the first mix of the song. I was so nervous as I began downloading the tune, but at the same time also very excited to take a listen. I literally remember clicking the mouse to start the song. I'm my own worst critic, of course. But after picking on myself for a little while, the song hit me. What Jeff had done with "Survivors Survive" gave me goose bumps.
"I'm sending you 'Survivors Survive,' you have to hear this," I told a friend on the phone.
After putting the single on iTunes, I thought it would be a cool idea to do a video for the song. Unfortunately, it was also an expensive idea at the time, considering the circumstances. So, I did what any other artist on a budget (no budget) would do: I made my own video with a Walmart camera. Ridiculous.
My idea for the video was to, well, let me be honest, it wasn't that well planned out, OK? I had a cheap camera, and just went with it. But it was cool, in the first two days of the video being uploaded to YouTube, it received over 1,500 views.
As of today, I've performed the song at cancer events all over the country. The song has been used in commercials, at Relay for Life rallies and was even used by #WorldCancerDay in 2015. Cancer, you really suck, and I'd be more than happy to punch your face, but without you, I would never have had such an amazing opportunity to record with some of the most talented people I've ever met, and to perform for some of the greatest people on the planet, cancer survivors.