Local author Ronnie Hammer will never forget the terrifying moment when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Instead of letting her fear consume her, however, the En Garde: My Battle with Breast Cancer author took it upon herself to raise awareness of the disease and to help others who were struggling with serious issues. Although the journey hasn’t been very easy, Hammer has learned a lot about herself, and others, along the way.
Her book centers around “my secret weapon, a visualization in the form of a charming, imaginary six inch tall British gentleman named Percy Puddlethorpe.” It was Percy who came along with her to her treatments and provided much-needed companionship during the most difficult periods of the battle against her cancer. In the short amount of time since the story has been published, Hammer has already seen the positive effect it has had on others.
Hammer’s inspiration for the book came mostly from people she shared her story with. She found that the more she told her story to people, the more they suggested that she share it with a broader audience. At first, Hammer began by telling her story to those who were going through serious struggles. After noticing how much it helped them, she began to branch out.
After her diagnosis, Hammer relied on her background and experience to get through the most difficult times. She previously worked in the Baltimore, Maryland school systems as a speech pathologist, then as an English teacher to newly arrived Jewish Russian immigrants. An internship with The Center for Pain and Stress Disorders in Morristown allowed Hammer to train with a Biofeedback professor from Columbia University School of Medicine, which gave her a deeper understanding of the human body. A subsequent job at the Biofeedback Clinic taught her more about how powerful the mind is for helping bodies heal, how stress can tremendously overwhelm a person’s body, and how relief from stress can reverse any damage it may have caused.
Hammer learned more about herself and the struggles that people face as she wrote her book, but the process didn’t come without struggles and challenges. She recalls, “The biggest challenge was explaining my experiences accurately and in a way that made them come to life for the reader. I wanted to show the facts and the processes as they happened so readers would know what to expect in the treatments and not be blindsided like I was.” To do this, she wrote in a way that allowed readers to understand the emotions she went through on her journey. She also did not want to sound as if she had all the right answers to cancer recovery, “knowing that not every cancer patient would have the same positive outcome as I did.”
Now that the book has been published, Hammer says that she is frequently told how courageous she is for writing about her personal story. She remarks that she doesn’t see it as courageous, “but as sharing a wonderful technique that helped me get through the diagnosis and treatment of my cancer.”