This page features Ryan Hamner, a young man who has survived cancer 4 times,
being just 5 years old when first diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma (although
he actually had spent 2 of those 5 years being misdiagnosed).
Ryan’s story in his own words from his website '2surviveonline'
“Cancer. It’s a very scary word, and one that we all hate to hear no matter what
the context may be—whether it’s someone telling us they have the dreaded and
nasty disease, or whether it’s us having to hear from our doctors that we have the
disease. Cancer can lead to fear, anxiety, and totally turn normal lives upside down in an instant for everyone involved!
My name is Ryan and I am a 4-time survivor of Hodgkin’s lymphoma. I was originally diagnosed with cancer at the age of 5 after being misdiagnosed for 2 years. It was the beginning of a life-long battle that has forever changed my health, my outlook on life, and the people who know me. However, it has not totally limited me and it definitely has not defeated me! Not at all! As a matter of fact, after cancer I have gone on to do things that I never thought possible. I have thrived in many ways, thanks to God and thanks to many great people!
In this eBook I’m not going to claim to be superman. I’m not going to claim that I was never scared, never worried, never anxious, never fearful, and at times, never ready to give up. I’m simply going to share with you some of my story and some of the methods I used to help me get through some of the toughest times I can remember—times when I have dealt with the unknown.
My goal is to simply help you or someone you know with cancer, or even some other disease, to overcome, stay strong, push through and thrive!
I come from a small, average family by most standards. A dad that worked very hard to take care of us and keep us kids in line, and a mom that stayed at home to take care of my brother and myself like moms do—great dinners, bath times, bed times, etc.
My family wasn’t exactly rich and we weren’t exactly poor. We got by just fine with what we had. And sometimes we had a little extra—well, in my eyes we did. Heck, my brother and I didn’t know any different anyway. As long as we had a few G.I. Joe men and a baseball, we were doing great!
At the age of 5, after almost 2 years of misdiagnoses, I was finally diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a cancer that affects the lymph system.
Actually though, my cancer affected all of us. The stress it put on my family was insurmountable and our lives changed tremendously. A simple cold in my family was to be treated like a major outbreak of an incurable disease at times because of my compromised immune system. The ordeal was and has been a total roller coaster.
As the years progressed, I would have the disease a total of 4 times. I would have complications from treatments and procedures, infections and lots of less than desirable experiences for a kid who would rather be outside playing baseball or riding his bike, or even in school, for that matter!
My last bout with this annoying, awful disease was in 1997, when I was 21 years old. I felt 2 lumps on the left side of my neck.
At the time, life was good. I was playing music in a band. I was taking jiu-jitsu. I had a cool job working with my brother and friends and was nearing my senior year in college. But, just like so many times before, life had to be paused due to cancer. It was at this time I decided to have a bone marrow transplant. Was I scared? Well, yes, a bit!
With the help of a great family, great friends, and a great medical team, I got through the sometimes nightmarish treatments, filled with mysterious, unknown infections and violent bouts of throwing up, just to name a few of the side effects.
I remember just thinking, “I’m going to get through this. I’m going to do it. Failure just won’t work. I have things I want to do! I’m only 21!”
I would focus on all of the things I planned to do in my future without hesitation. I was treating the cancer as a mere blip on the radar, no matter what the situation. It wasn’t always easy to do this, but through meditation, prayer and focus, I managed to keep my spirits up.
Dropping out of college for cancer was not so awesome. Especially since I was so close to being finished. And, quitting my job wasn’t so awesome either, since I spent my time at work watching a camera, waiting for shoplifters to take something and run! It was a fun gig for a 21-year old!
While sick, I remembered thinking about how I would return to college and finish. As a lover and performer of music, I remember thinking about how I would get well and go on to write and record music. And, I wasn’t sure where this one came from, but one day, while in my hospital bed, physically weak and maybe even a little scared, I said to my mom, “You know, when I get out of here, I’m going to put together a book for children with cancer.” At the time, I’m sure my mom may have thought this claim was the result of all the medications (And it may have been!), but believe it or not, it happened exactly one year later. Yep, I wrote, illustrated and published a book while being backed by a major corporation. I even did a small book tour! How? Well I’m not really sure how to be honest. But, it just happened. And this was just the beginning of the awesome things to come.
When we are stressed, anxious, fearful and worried, we all know that the unknown is playing a huge role in our feelings and outlook on life. The unknown can obliterate hope, leave us disenchanted and not knowing just where to look for peace, how to feel, and how to cope. Having cancer is living in the unknown, and learning to deal with this is key—not just for dealing with cancer, but for dealing with life!
At 21 years of age, while going through my bone marrow transplant, looking back I often ask myself if it was my naivety that protected me from the worst fears and anxieties imaginable. But then, I realize just how scared I was at times. Sometimes I felt I was in imminent danger. Other times I feared not doing the things I dreamed of doing. I also, of course, feared my life would end the way many of my friends’ lives ended while I was living in Atlanta undergoing my transplant—in death. This is when I started to analyze and ask myself, what kept me strong? What helped me to get through all of this?… Surviving cancer, etc.?
The following is my list. A list that would later help me pull through a heart infection where the doctor actually told me, “Ryan, you may not live through the night.”
Some people may not be able to relate to this list at all, but I’m hoping that it will resonate with someone affected by cancer, whether they are battling it, or have a friend or family member battling it. I hope this list will also help anyone living in fear, or with a chronic condition that creates an environment of the unknown. The unknown steals our joy, our peace, and wreaks havoc on us."
Ryan has produced 2 books:
You'll Be All Right, Buddy: A storybook for young children with cancer.
The book features characters named after patients Ryan knew while
undergoing treatment in 1998 in Atlanta.
'How To Survive & Thrive' is an e-book in which he shares his story and gives 9 tips which helped him to get through tough times.