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
Here are three things I learned to avoid when recovering from cancer treatment.
I remember after finishing with my last bout of cancer years ago, I immediately wanted to go back to my "normal" life and to feeling good again both mentally and physically. I was 22 years old and had just completed a bone marrow transplant.
I remember feeling a bit down and like I was behind. I was underweight and very much wanted to get back to working out and finishing up college. It always seemed like I was focusing on the wrong things and doing the things that only made me feel worse.
Below are three things I think people should avoid doing if they want to get back on track after cancer.
1. Don't Focus on That One Part That "Looks Funny"
When I was a kid and going through cancer treatment, I had a lot of radiation to my body. My family was told then that it could impact how I looked physically, and it did, somewhat, along with multiple surgeries, etc.
Over the years, I've struggled with always focusing on those parts of my body that "look funny" because of something cancer-related. However, those parts of my body say more than just, “Hey, I had cancer and stuff," they say, "I got through cancer four times," and that's something kinda' awesome.
So, forget about the scars or that part of your body that now looks different because of the cancer treatment that saved your life. It's cool. I'm sure most people would rather have you around with some part of your body that you think looks funny than not have you around at all.
2. Don't Compare Yourself to Others
It's only natural, we look at others and compare ourselves. For example, I'm in a coffee shop right now drinking a plain iced coffee, and the woman next to me has some crazy looking drink with whipped cream, chocolate drizzle and some other stuff on top. It looks so much better than what I'm drinking, and I'm sure it is.
Anyway, falling into the trap of comparing yourself to others can make things even harder on you after cancer. You may feel like you fell behind in your career because of having to take time out for cancer, or you might think you don't look as good as everyone else. Ahhh, stop it. Everyone's story is different. It's all about perspective in both where you've come from (battling cancer) and where you're going.
3. Don't Stay Up Late
Sleep is just so important and not enough can be said about the importance of getting enough sleep. According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, proper sleep is needed for the healing and repair of the heart and blood vessels, among other things.
However, did you know that getting enough sleep is connected to helping you cope? Yep, it's true.
"New research has shown, that when you sleep, your brain clears out 'debris' or 'cellular trash,' and this allows your brain to make the new connections it needs in order to cope," says Dr. Christina Garoppo, owner of New Radiance Anti-aging Institute.
So, my survivor friends, at the end of the day, how about keeping your head up and focusing on what a badass you are — you beat cancer!