Wednesday, July 7, 2010

This headline should read "cute guy survives cancer"

Hey... a girl can look, right? ;)

Just read this story about a 29-year-old guy named Ryan Swanson, who lives in Memphis, and how he's celebrating his third year non-Hodgkin's lymphoma-FREE, which is awesome.

The full story is here, from Commercial Appeal Memphis.

Ryan Swanson, who recently opened Ryan Patrick Salon in East Memphis, is a cancer survivor. He was diagnosed with late-stage Hodgkin's lymphoma at age 25, but will celebrate three years of full remission in August.

Ryan Swanson, image courtesy of Commercial Appeal

Swanson was working as a colorist and stylist at Pavo Salon and studying to complete his bachelor's degree in marketing at Christian Brothers University when he began having pain in his hip. His first stop was a chiropractor.

When the pain only got worse, he made an appointment with an orthopedic doctor.

"They ordered an MRI and I went in for my results and that's when they said I needed to go in to The West Clinic," he said.

It took months to get a firm diagnosis via hip biopsies and other tests, Swanson said. He noticed a small lymph node on the side of his neck and another under his arm "and that's how they diagnosed me." The hip pain, he later found out, stemmed from a cancerous lesion on his hip bone.

"He's always worked hard, but I think (Ryan) appreciates things a whole lot more now," said Swanson's stepmother, Rose Ann, who helped raise him and his older brother, Mike, after his biological mother died of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma in her mid-30s.

She and Swanson's father, Dusty, a retired FedEx pilot, were playing golf when their son called them with the grim news.

"That was the last thing in the world (we would have expected)," she said. "Never in a million years ..."

Could the cancer have been inherited?

"Lymphoma is not genetic," Ryan Swanson said. "It is an environmental cancer, but obviously there is some sort of gene that makes my family more susceptible."

Swanson began a six-month round of chemotherapy at The West Clinic. He kept working while going in for treatments every other week.

"I would go home and sleep for probably a day and a half straight," he said. "I couldn't eat anything" because of nausea.

When the treatment ended, Swanson's doctors told him the cancer was gone, but he would need to return in a couple of months for a checkup.

"And a week before I went back, I had a golf ball in the side of my neck, like all of a sudden," he said.

The cancer had come back.

"We really didn't think he was going to be around when we heard that (second diagnosis)," his father said. "It's an overwhelming sadness to think a child would precede you (in death). ... How can a cancer that's relatively curable come back? You just don't know what to think."

That's when the family decided to head for the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.

Doctors there told Swanson he needed a stem cell transplant, but only after going through more chemotherapy at The West Clinic.

Swanson and his family headed back to Houston in July 2007 for the stem cell transplant.

All told, the family contended with the disease for a year and a half.

Swanson turns 30 late this month. In the meantime, he's got a business to run.

The grand opening celebration was Thursday, when he got to show off his 2,200-square-foot salon at 557 Erin Drive.

Most of all, he can't wait to create a working environment that's happy for everyone -- a lesson cancer taught him.

"I definitely think my illness helped with that, if that's the best word to use," he said. "Because it makes you know that you have to appreciate every day as if it's your last and you've got to take chances."

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