Laughter proves best medicine for cancer survivor
When local companies need hazardous materials removed, Ryan McCormick hopes they call Active Environmental Ser
vices, an environmental services company based in College Park. McCormick, a part-time comic, has
been the sales and marketing manager for the Indianapolis-based company about three months.
But two years ago, McCormick faced his own personal hazard when he was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma, a form of cancer that attacks the body’s lymphatic system.
He first felt the lumps in his neck and jaw in 2001 but was told they were noncancerous and would go away. By 2004, the lumps were still there. This time, the biopsy showed cancer.
Facing a diagnosis of cancer is stressful enough, but McCormick’s wife, Colleen, was seven months pregnant with their first child, Shane. McCormick completed six rounds of chemotherapy but had to leave a job that he “really enjoyed” because of his health.
“It was rough,” he said. “On the one hand, we were preparing to bring life into the world and on the other hand I was fighting for my own.”
McCormick received encouragement throughout his chemotherapy from Dr. Oskar Oskarson, an oncologist with Hematology Oncology of Indiana PC, part of the St. Vincent Health network.
He credits his wife with getting him
through the whole experience.
“Here she was pregnant,” McCormick said. “The first three months of Shane’s life I was very sick and in and out of the hospital. There was a chance that I would have to have open-heart surgery because there was a clot where the port was installed for the chemo. It took about a year for the clot to dissolve.”
McCormick, 40, has been in remission since April 2005.
He uses his experience with cancer as part of a stand-up monologue he performs at Crackers Comedy Club in Broad Rip
ple and at One-Liners Comedy Club near the airport.
The self-professed “smart mouth” started honing his comedic skills at North Central High School and appeared in comedy shows at Ball State University, where he earned a degree in journalism. A friend took him to “open mike” at Crackers and he performed his first professional “gig” there in April 1989.
His half-hour act covers topics like politics, dating, divorce and marriage. He describes his comic style as “clean”- nothing off-color. “It’s easier to work
more places when your comedy is clean,” he said.
Escaping death has changed McCormick’s priorities.
“I’m really happy having a full-time job and working comedy as a hobby,” he said, after trying comedy full time in the 1990s.
“My ambition was to be a professional comedian, but when you have a child, the priority is to care for them,” McCormick said. “When I went through having cancer, it really made me work hard to provide for my son and wife. I can have a positive impact on Active Environmental and still entertain people at night-it’s the best of both worlds.”
McCormick is writing a screenplay with a friend about a son who goes to work where his dad has built the company.
“It’s a comedy based on my friend’s life,” he explained. “We used to work for a company based out of New York, and there’s lots of characters based on people we knew. We’ve changed the names to protect the guilty.”
Ryan McCormick started doing stand-up comedy while attending college. He performs at Crackers Comedy Club in Broad Ripple and One-Liners Comedy Club on the west side.