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 cancer patient still made great memories during one of the most challenging times of his life.
"It's the devil's food. Yeah, the devil's food," I told my cousin and my mom, before my memory went totally black and my head fell back on the pillow, I think. Basically, I remember nothing after that comment, and honestly, I have no idea what I was talking about.
It was September 1998, and I was in the Emory University Hospital undergoing an autologous bone marrow transplant.
You see, the odd thing is, although there was a lot of painful stuff going on — as most would expect – and I was obviously being treated for my fourth occurrence of cancer, believe it or not, there were still plenty of good times in between. There were plenty of funny comments, good people and, throughout some of what should be the hardest times, great memories made.
Throughout my battle in 1997, I had my friends, Sam, Chris and Buddy, at the Hope Lodge to give me hell and to hang out with. At the hospital, I had my nurses Gale and Jennifer to do the same thing. These nurses were special people. I can remember one of them actually stopping in on her day off just so that my mom could step out for a minute and take care of a few things. These obviously weren't just people who "went to work," these were people who loved what they did — taking care of other people – and it showed.
A lot of times, it's hard for me to believe that I went through a bone marrow transplant, anaphylactic shock, extreme nausea and a good bit of pain, but still made the pleasant memories that I did. I mean, yeah, so I was on some good meds here and there that made me super loopy, but there was more to it than that. I was surrounded by good people.
These people left a pretty big impact on me, too. So much so, that in 1999, when I wrote my book for children with cancer, You'll Be All Right, Buddy!, while recovering from my transplant and finishing up college, I named all the characters after these people.
Since those days, I've lost track with many of the people I met along the way. Some of the patients I met during that time lost their battle with cancer, some of the nurses retired, but others are still there — and I'm sure loving what they do.
I'm pretty confident that many other patients like me in 1997 will someday have surprisingly good memories of the people they met and the people who cared for them during likely one of the most challenging times of their lives.