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
How a young boy on chemo marked the days until the end of his treatments.
We were sitting at the picnic table just outside the chemo clinic. My mom and I had driven two hours, again. It was the final countdown until I was called back to start my chemo treatment. This part was never fun. Heck, none of it was ever fun. But, the final wait always caused the most anxiety for us.
On this one day in particular, we were sitting at the picnic table, eating some cheese crackers and waiting. It was very sunny outside and must have been almost eighty degrees.
I always had weird ways of marking time when I'd finish a surgery or a chemo treatment.
Usually it went something like this, "The next time I see my dog, Muffet, I'll be done with chemo this week," or "The next time I play baseball at home, I'll be done with chemo." These were just odd mental games I played, for whatever reason. On that day though, I didn't want to simply mark the end of one single chemo treatment, I wanted something to mark the end of all of my chemo treatments.
Not far from the picnic table where we often sat, there was an old tree. It had a really odd crevice that had formed in it. I was never really sure how it got there, but I always thought it was neat. It was neat, but incomplete, I thought anyway. So, I took it upon myself to complete it. Look, when you have lots of alone time and are living in partial isolation at times because of a bad immune system, you see the world in a totally different way.
So anyway, I decided I was going to carve a flower from a stick, place it in the crevice in the tree, and by time the tree grew around the flower, my chemo treatments would be over. That was going to be my new marker.
Since I was from Georgia, I of course had a pocket knife on me. So, I found a stick, carved the bark down around the sides to make the flower petals and shaped the rest of the stick into a wooden flower. It took just a few minutes to complete this masterpiece. Then I walked over to the tree and without much thought, placed my wooden flower snuggly into the crevice in the tree.
"Mom, by time the tree grows around my flower, I'll be done with chemo. Want to bet?" I told my mom.
Moments later, I was pulled from my bright warm day at the picnic table and back into the dimly lit chemo room. I always remembered that room as being a bit dark, but I tried to imagine what my "flower" in the tree in the bright warm sunshine would look like when I'd be done with chemo.
As each treatment passed, we always checked the tree, when we could, and my "flower" was still there. It even made it through all of the bad weather, kind of like me making it through chemo. Eventually, one day, I noticed the tree had totally engulfed the entire stick, except for the petals. They still stuck out of the tree and were still visible. It was around this time that I finally finished my chemotherapy. Perfect timing, I was done.
Should you someday walk past that tree, I would hope that you see the semblance of a flower carved from a stick that a young boy placed in a crevice to mark the time when he was finished with chemo.