Walking through the food court I see poet Ryan Schipper, sitting at a table, short blonde hair, bespectacled, wearing a suit. He looks up and waves me over with a big smile. We start talking about his life changing moment, the 2013 Christmas that saw him get dehydrated due to food poisoning and while at the hospital a routine scan saw him diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma.

He reflects on the day he was diagnosed. “When I went to the doctor and he said you have Lymphoma but we don’t know what sort, I was sort of crossing my fingers that I would get the same thing as Delta Goodrem because I thought it was funny.”

Four months of chemotherapy and 15 days of radiation therapy put paid to that idea. But Ryan continued to work until the effects became too much and he was forced to become a homebody.

Eventually, the chemotherapy worked.  He recalls the doctor being late. He also remembers how the initial news had no real effect on him until he spoke to his mum. When he broke the happy news, he broke down.

He has found that his priorities in life have now changed. “I think before I took relationships for granted and now I don’t. Now I’m really keen on making sure that the personal relationships I have in my life, those are the most important things. Everything else is now a lower priority.”

Throughout this ordeal he found writing difficult. “I did not write a lot during that time. I did not feel that I could express the experience in a way that could make sense to other people.” He can write again now, but not about that subject.

The experience can’t be captured with a pen, but the scar on his chest bears the testimony, a reminder of a dark time.

A mark of survival.

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