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
Thinking back on my friends who fought cancer with me can sometimes be daunting, but I like to look for the silver lining.
Are you one of those people who lies in bed at night trying to think of that one word? Or do you ever just lie there trying to think of the name of that one actor who played the ninja in "that movie"? You know, what's his name? If you don't watch ninja movies, I get it. But you probably get my point - that circular thought process kind of thing, where you can't remember no matter what. It drives me crazy. I do it all the time though. Having a brain that's been soaked in chemo repeatedly probably doesn't help matters much, either.
Often, though, I wonder about the other people going through treatment I met while I was sick. I don't just try and remember their names though, but I also wonder what happened to them? It gives me that same exact feeling as when I forget a word or that ninja guy from that ninja movie, but it's on a much different and more intense level. It often creates a little bit of anxiety.
Cancer is a precarious little beast, unfortunately. It can change things quickly, including people’s futures. I can remember meeting certain people who were just going into treatment who, if you met at the time, you would think with 100 percent certainty that they would come out on top of the disease in the end. It didn't always happen that way though, even for people who finished their treatment.
I've often looked on Facebook for my friends that I stayed with at the Hope Lodge in Atlanta during my bone marrow transplant back in 1998. Rarely have I found anyone. My brain likes to play tricks on me. Sometimes it will end the story in a way that I don't like, and other times it just leaves me hanging.
I've wondered about the kids from the chemo clinic on many occasions. How did they make out? Do they have families now? Did they get well at all? Have multiple recurrences? Long-term side effects of treatment?
The last time I was in Atlanta, I thought of these things as I drove by the hospital buildings that previously weren't there. I had driven down these roads so many times. I had spent hours at these places, playing with other kids who faced similar challenges. We had no idea what we were up against. We were just kids passing time in between appointments and just getting through it. We simply knew what hurt and what didn't.
I have come to accept that it's OK not knowing how things turned out for everyone I met along the way. Actually, when I think about it, I'm pretty cool with my friends' stories not having "endings.”