My uncle, Ryan Jason Hamblin, struggled with stage 4 lung cancer for 14 long months before passing away on December 3, 2011.
He was healthy, and usually working out at the gym and playing sports. He died three months before his 40th birthday. My uncle and I were close and it really hit me hard. We couldn’t go see him the night before but planned to visit first thing in the morning. When I woke up, all the adults were gone, and only me, my cousins, and my sister were home…. and I just knew. When they came back, I held my cousins and my sister as they cried. I decided to perform with my drill team that night, for Ryan, and I’d like to think that was my best performance yet.
Ryan cared deeply for people. When I was growing up, I used to think pictures of Jesus were Ryan, and I think he had the disposition to match. He had such a kind heart, and the entire town felt his loss. The funeral had so many people crammed into our church and even more in the parade to the cemetery. Even now, five years later, people talk about him with love and fond memories. Growing up, he seemed so indestructible. So constant. The day we got the news of his diagnosis, I felt like I’d been sucker punched.
The following months flew by in a blur. Maybe that’s why the stigma that only smokers get lung cancer aggravates me so much. If that were true, my uncle would still be here. As a tribute, for my senior project I started a nonprofit and I put so much of myself into it. It is hard, but part of me feels like giving up on the foundation equates to giving up on Ryan, and I could never do that. My hope is to help change how people view lung cancer and that will lead to more donations for research. I am now an advocate.
Not a day goes by I don’t miss him. His loss will never go away, never dissipate. I will always be comforting my grandpa when something reminds him of Ryan. I will always wonder what Ryan would say if he were here. I will always wonder why HE had to be the one to get cancer. But by sharing my story, I hope that in the future, less people will have to go through the struggle of being the ones left behind.
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