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
Four things you can do to help protect yourself and cope after cancer.
You know, when I completed my bone marrow transplant in 1998, I thought, "I'm done. I'm over it. I'm out of this place." And well, I was.
It was my fourth cancer KO. That part felt pretty good. And this time around, treatment, in many ways, had been much better.
There were new medications to make me feel better, hurt less and not puke as much. But the one thing I didn't see coming after my seemingly final victory over cancer, was a sneaky uppercut from elsewhere — the long-term side effects of treatment.
If you are done with your cancer treatment, or even still going through it, below are a few tips and suggestions that I believe may help you.
If I would have focused more on some of these things, I feel that I could have avoided or dramatically reduced the impact of several serious late-term problems associated with cancer treatment.
Your situation will undoubtedly be different than mine. But, the overall point is, as generic as it sounds, to be proactive.
Okay, obviously, I don't mean for survivors to actually go learn world history or anything like that. Although that kind of stuff can be pretty cool. Personally, I like to learn about ancient civilizations. Nerd alert!
Anyway, what I mean with this whole history thing is to get familiar with what types of things you should be on the lookout for in the future — learn what types of long-term side effects certain treatments, procedures, etc. could have on you down the road. Look to what others have gone through in similar situations to yours.
For me, my big long-term surprise was my heart. I was notified of this problem via v-tach and falling out unconscious onto the floor Christmas day in 2006.
Cancer treatment can cause the heart to pump less efficiently, cause changes in blood flow and/or increase the risk for blood clots (thrombosis) that can cause a heart attack.
The most common heart conditions caused by these changes are congestive heart failure, the most serious cardiotoxicity related to cancer treatment, inflammation of the heart muscle (pericarditis) and coronary artery disease. Other heart problems that can be caused by cancer treatment include low blood pressure (hypotension), high blood pressure (hypertension), abnormal heart rhythm (arrhythmia) and valve disease, according to the Mayo Clinic.
So, do yourself a favor, find out if your treatments are cardiotoxic and get regular evaluations from your doctor, even if you feel great. Heck, when I temporarily left Christmas in 2006, I was feeling pretty good overall.
This is something I do personally and highly recommend, working out with weights and doing cardio.
It's a huge stress reliever for me and is something I've been doing over the years, even through cancer.
But don't just take my word for it, guidelines from experts are recommending 30 minutes of aerobic exercise 3 times a week and strength training 2 to 3 times a week.
This is another must-do, I believe. Find that one thing (or two) you love to do. Find that hobby that you enjoy doing every day, and dive in.
Giving yourself something to look forward to regularly is going to keep your spirits up and keep you going.
I enjoy several things like reading, writing and weightlifting. Even if I'm physically sick, I may not be able to lift weights, but I can always read and write.
As a survivor, what's your advice for after treatment?