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Ryan Gardner with her book
HHS patient Ryan Gardner wrote a book of poetry inspired by her cancer journey.
September 16, 2021

HHS cancer warrior shares experiences through poetry

Hamilton Health Sciences (HHS) patient Ryan Gardner has been battling cancer on-and-off for the past 11 years. “It has been tough but I’ve learned so much about myself,” says the 27-year-old Burlington resident, who recently self-published a book of poetry about her cancer journey titled The Warrior.

“That’s because I’m a warrior,” says Gardner, who is currently fighting her fourth round of cancer. “My mindset wouldn’t be where it is today if I hadn’t gone through all of this. I have a greater appreciation of life, and I’m looking forward to the future.”

even though the climb uphill is hard,
the view from the top is spectacular
entices a feeling of accomplishment
inspires you to move forward
to take the next step

Gardner was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma at age 16. While most people with this blood cancer are eventually cured, Gardner wasn’t among them. She relapsed over the years, and is currently receiving immunotherapy treatment at the Juravinski Hospital and Cancer Centre. Immunotherapy ramps up the immune system to fight cancer.

Multiple health issues

Gardner has faced other health issues over the years including epilepsy, post-traumatic stress, psychosis, anxiety and obesity, but she’s feeling much healthier these days. “Everything has been looking really good,” says Gardner, who started immunotherapy in June. “I’m also practicing meditation to help manage anxiety, which is a trigger for epilepsy seizures.”

a ship floats off track
and an inevitable shipwreck follows
we can dwell on the old, broken ship
or we can build a new one
start again

The `positive’ side of a cancer diagnosis

Gardner hopes her poems can help others struggling with health issues.

The Warrior-Poetry book

Ryan Gardner reads poems from her book, The Warrior

The Warrior contains about 80 poems, many of which Gardner wrote to help process the cancer experience.

“I started writing when I was first diagnosed at age 16. When the cancer returned, I felt depressed and poetry was my outlet. It allowed me to express how I was feeling in an artistic way.”

Gardner appreciates the care she has received over the years at HHS. “The amount of gratitude that I have for everyone who works for HHS can’t be put into words.”

In a poem titled, to all the nurses, she writes:

you are the angels sent to protect us
from the disgusting illness
trying to take us down
the saviours that help us move toward
a better life

As terrible as cancer is, Gardner says that there’s a positive side. “I’ve really learned a lot about myself. It has been interesting, for sure, and good in a lot of ways.”