Anticipating Better Days
Four-time Cancer Survivor Remembers How House Helped Him Look Ahead
Anticipation has always been a type of talisman for Ryan Hamner.
The combination of hope, expectancy and an occasional surprise proved a worthy adversary to the anxiety and dread of chemo when Ryan was 6, then 9, then 11 and again at 21. Looking toward better times and envisioning himself doing something fun afterward was always the way the Columbus, Georgia, native got through the frequent Atlanta trips to treat the Hodgkin lymphoma that kept intruding on childhood.
Now in his 40s and clear of cancer since a bone marrow transplant when he was 21, Ryan is using his experience to help sick kids. In December he launched BambaBox, which sends care packages to hospitalized children and their parents. It’s a nod to the support system he credits for his own recovery and specifically his grandmother, whom he called “Bamba,” who’d collect trinkets and surprises for him.
“I never wanted to know what it would be,” says Ryan about the gifts friends and family would bring to his bedside. “The surprise was always the fun of it, and it helped me get through it all and even gave me something to look forward to when I knew I was going to be so sick.”
Ryan recovered multiple times at the original Houston Mill Atlanta Ronald McDonald House and remembers that despite the debilitating nausea and accompanying exhaustion, the House was special for his entire family and was the difference between dealing with sickness in the comfort of a bed rather than in a car.
“We’d have this window of time to get from the hospital and back to the House before it would hit,” he says, remembering chemo’s side effects. “It was awful but being able to stay at the House was huge for us. It meant my mom could relax and talk to people who were going through the same thing. And it meant I didn’t have to dry-heave in a car.”
In addition to four-time cancer survivor and entrepreneur, Ryan, who now lives in Jacksonville, Florida, can also add musician, recording artist and published author to his résumé. In 2010, he released his album, “Between the Lines,” and in 2011 recorded two singles for the American Cancer Society. He has a children’s book about dealing with cancer, “You’ll Be All Right, Buddy,” and his memoir, “This is Remission,” landed in 2019.
Much of these accomplishments are the direct result of where he focused his attention during recovery, he says. From learning to play the guitar to writing lyrics and later books, Ryan is adamant that moving forward is the best way to survive and that finding hobbies is critical to recovery.
And for its role in supporting his family and providing a framework of normalcy, the House occupies a special place in Ryan’s heart.
“It’s not just a place to spend the night. It can minimize the impact of all the stress and bad memories of treatment,” Ryan says. “It’s a life changer. It’s a place where you go and make friends, recover and then get ready for better times ahead.”