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
Writing helped me duck out on cancer.
When you are going through the quandary of cancer, cancer treatment and its unpredictable aftermath, life can get pretty stressful. It can be hard for you to focus, stay organized and even find joy in the day-to-day life you knew before, if you remember it at all. So, what do you do? What can you do to feel alive again? Well, sometimes you try your hand at aliens — yes aliens.
As a kid, I had a thing for aliens. I also had a thing for writing … kind of. Not that I was any good at it, I just liked to do it.
My first "book" was called, The Mornz. It was, of course, about an alien - and it only made sense that the sequel was entitled, Maro the Martian (the Mornz' brother, I think). Surprisingly though, neither of the books were ever picked up. Not one bite.
My alien series was crafted down at "The Business," as we called it. "The Business" was my grandparents' small, family-owned print shop. Writing and creating was always a good escape for me. Obviously, my mind was in a place as far from Earth as possible.
I spent many afternoons at my grandparents' print shop after doctor's appointments or when I simply wasn't feeling well. I'd often sleep on a cot in one of the offices or have chicken and dumplings placed in front of my face in an attempt to get me to eat. Eating wasn't exactly easy back then with my other steady diet of chemo. My granny was a firm believer in the power of the chicken: chicken soup, chicken and dumplings, and of course her favorite, chicken livers.
"Just eat a little bit more, Honey," she'd say while holding a bowl of chicken soup, trying to coach me into a few more bites. She was convinced chicken would cure everything.
At my grandparents' printing shop, I got my start "writing.” I was 6 years old.
In 1999, shortly after getting home from my bone marrow transplant, I once again decided to create something. I wrote and illustrated an educational storybook for children with cancer (no aliens). The book was entitled, You'll Be All Right, Buddy! It told the story of a kid named Buddy, his cancer diagnosis and his journey to remission. The characters were all named after the people I knew and met while going through my cancer treatment in 1998. The book was eventually published by Blue Cross Blue Shield.
But why did I write the book? Well, the answer to that question is a crystal clear: I don't have any idea. Although I do know I felt like I had a story to share and wanted to give back, somehow. And then again, whether it was through music, or writing, I've always turned to one or the other to organize my thoughts and tune out — or at least try.
You'll Be All Right, Buddy! wasn't exactly a masterpiece. To my defense, though, it was a kid's book filled with pictures, and I'm sure chemobrain probably had some sort of major impact on the final product. Needless to say, it was a book, and I'd like to think it helped a few kids out there. I'd also like to think it was a step up from the goofy books I wrote and printed at my grandparents' printing business as a kid.
After publishing The Buddy Book, as it was called, I would eventually go on to start a blog for people affected by cancer. Today, I'm putting together a "real" book (no aliens, either). Writing the book has been a trip back in time. As I've written, I've felt like I have been under hypnosis, or like I've somehow found myself going through a wormhole recalling things I would have thought were buried forever. It's been a fun journey and at times challenging, remembering my tough yet extraordinary childhood - the struggles, triumphs and victories.
I hope to finish my book soon, but pray my story continues.