A Look through My Window
by Ryan Hamner
It’s been 14 years since my last bout with Hodgkin lymphoma, but regardless of the medications I was on at the time, I vividly remember looking out the hospital window while battling an infection just before my stem-cell transplant. It was an infection that left me with a fever like I had never had before; I couldn’t move and was in a great deal of pain.
At age 21, I had looked out many windows in my life. But this time, it was different. Why? Was it me? Was it my window? Was it the medication? (Well, maybe the latter just a little bit.)
I could barely turn my neck without terrible pain, but I was still able to look out toward the running track of the university campus hospital where I was being treated. It was a beautiful day: blue skies with a few streaks of white, the sun shining down, and I could tell it was breezy. People were walking and running around the track. Just by looking through my window, I felt I could almost experience “outside” better than most people who actually were outside.
Blue skies. Breezes. Sunshine.
These may sound like simple clichés to a lot of people,
but not to me.
The reason for this was I had not experienced fresh air since being hospitalized. I had not felt the sun on my skin in days, nor had I felt a breeze tickle my face – the simple things. It’s kind of like not realizing how good ice chips can be until you haven’t been able to eat or drink all day because of nausea.
Blue skies. Breezes. Sunshine. These may sound like simple clichés to a lot of people, but not to me. When I looked through my window that day, I was reminded of all the small and simple moments that make life what it is. Life isn’t one big thing; it’s several tiny moments.
Coffee, for example, isn’t a big thing. But a moment with a friend and a good cup of coffee is priceless.
My experience in the hospital gave me a new appreciation, a new outlook, and, literally, a new window to look through. I had learned that a successful life meant noticing, enjoying, and reveling in the small moments. Simple joys are relative; they are different for different people and for where they are in life.
I remember my friend Jack, who fought a good fight against a brain tumor. His simple joy was Chapstick. Yep, Chapstick. I remember one night while visiting Jack, his dad was in a rush out the door to go grab Jack some more of that Chapstick he loved. To some people, that’s nothing, but to Jack and his dad, it meant a great deal.
Jack’s story solidified my thoughts on appreciating simplicity. I can remember when he was taken to hospice. His mom pulled me aside, rubbed my arm, and said, “The doctor wanted him off the chemo so he could enjoy just a few more good moments.”
Although I had never been in hospice, this took me right back to looking out my hospital window that day. I knew the feeling – the one where every small and “good” thing counted. One smile. One sip of cola after being sick all day. That one friend you haven’t seen in years who drops in for a visit. I understood.
As I said, it’s been 14 years since my stem-cell transplant and my last treatment. I’ve had a few infections and residual effects from all of the therapy, but one of those effects is one that I’ll never lose. And that’s what I see, and feel, when I look through my window.
♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
Ryan Hamner is a four-time Hodgkin lymphoma survivor, singer- songwriter, and founder of 2survive (2surviveonline.com), a website for cancer survivors, their families, and their friends. Hear his new song, written for the American Cancer Society, “Where Hope Lives” at RyanHamner.com.
This article was originally published in Coping® with Cancer magazine, March/April 2012.