Friday, September 25, 2015

I’ve Been Arrogant for 15 Years and Now I Atone

As published on Gather the Jews

It is Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. In synagogue I recited one of the most important prayers Jews read each year called viddui, or the confession. Al chet she-cha-tanu l’fanecha. For the sin we have committed against you.

There are many sins. One stood out to me.

“. . .The sin we have committed against You by our arrogance. . .

For all these sins, O God of mercy, forgive us, pardon us, grant us atonement!”

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Benjamin Rubenstein at his Cancerslayer table at CureFest DC 2015 on the National Mall
I distributed stickers of my Instagram character named Cancerslayer to the sticker-hungry children who visited my table. “Cancerslayer fights illness by day and bad guys by night!”

I stood at my Cancerslayer table at CureFest on the National Mall and talked about my Cancer-Slaying Super Man books, which I displayed along with information on how to purchase them. “My memoirs are about how I survived childhood cancer twice by believing I was superhuman,” I said to interested visitors.

My table was wedged between two nonprofits that raise awareness and research money for childhood cancer. The two nonprofits’ founders were present to represent their organizations. The three of us talked to each other and also to cancer victims and their family members who attended CureFest and visited our tables. Each nonprofit founder sat and listened to me repeatedly share a concept that I have embraced since my first diagnosis almost exactly 15 years ago: Cancerslayer is the attitude that has helped me survive and thrive. Keep reading I’ve Been Arrogant for 15 Years and Now I Atone.

Leia Mais…

Friday, August 14, 2015

I Hope They Allow Crutches in Hell

As published on The Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults

Crutching is a great way to help injuries heal and bypass the lines at Disney World, and able-bodied individuals may treat crutchers with kindness. If you use crutches and think people are nice to you only because they consider you weak, and you must prove your strength until your death by always taking the challenging path through life, then follow these steps.

On the Washington, D.C., Metro, people will ask, “Do you want my seat?” Don’t let them snatch your completely irrational pride. You need to stand on one leg while holding crutches with one hand and the pole with the other as the train jerks and halts. There are several ways to respond to this offer:

The polite way: “No, thanks.”

The jerk way: “I’M NOT TAKING YOUR SEAT!”

The 16-year-old boy way: “I only sit for lap dances.”

When you reach the sidewalk you must speed-crutch so people think you’re crazy and intimidating instead of weak. Your loud crutch tips and long, quick, repetitive strides will make you sound like a galloping horse. You will quickly pass pedestrians walking in the same direction, though they will hear your approach for hundreds of steps. Here, you should politely say, “ON YOUR LEFT!” when you are 50 feet behind them, as a warning. For individuals who are hard of hearing, you should scream directly into their left ears when you are next to them. Since you won’t know who is and isn’t impaired, do both every time. Keep reading I Hope They Allow Crutches in Hell

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In the Media

Tom Coccagna interviewed me on his "Living With…" podcast. You can hear our awesome hour-long discussion (also available on iTunes, Soundcloud and Stitcher).

Leia Mais…

Monday, July 13, 2015

Hi Mom, I Got a Tattoo!

As published on Gather the Jews

Hi Mom,

Please sit so you don’t keel when you read this, and remember to inhale and then exhale, in that order: I got another tattoo.

Benjamin Rubenstein's tattoo of a fig tree with green droplets of water

I know you thought my final would be the survivor tumor tattoo I received three years ago, or even the tattoo dots I received before my radiation 14 years ago. I know that you, Dad, and ten percent of women like me exactly how I am. Please let me explain my tattoo and then you will love it like I do.

In Judaism, we use trees to celebrate holidays, weddings and births. I love
consuming food and booze on holidays, and Mom, your other son just got married and maybe he’ll have a child. (No pressure, JD.)
Benjamin Rubenstein with new inner bicep tattoo of fig tree and droplets of green water

Rabbis debate the species of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil in the Garden of Eden. One opinion is that the Tree of Knowledge was a fig tree and that after the sin, Adam and Eve knew they were naked and sewed fig leaves to make girdles, meaning they used the very object that caused their downfall to correct the mistake. The very drug—Cytoxan—that killed my first cancer caused my second cancer, and then killed the second cancer, too.

We attain wisdom by learning intellectually or through life experience. I hate myself when I make a mistake: make the wrong decision, say the wrong thing, fail to approach a woman because I fear rejection, eat a single chocolate when I hadn’t planned to. The fig tree symbolizes that I can make a mistake and bounce back and grow from it. Very few mistakes cannot be reversed (besides getting a bad tattoo). Keep reading Hi Mom, I Got a Tattoo!

I built a new online store within this blog that makes it simple to buy all my products including my books and stickers of Cancerslayer. The stickers are two inches wide by three inches tall on a white background with gloss paper.

Leia Mais…

Monday, June 22, 2015

I Remember Rachel for Her Ferocity for Life, Not Cancer

I first wrote about my amazing friend Rachel "Lings" Yingling three years ago, and today likely won't be the last time. She was among the best and my favorite people I have met. Besides her inexplicably odd-shaped feet which she didn't mind showing off, we could all benefit from acquiring her characteristics: passionate, positive, resilient, adventurous, alive. Fiercely alive.

This is for Rachel.

As published on The Huffington Post

Rachel Yingling sitting against rock in West Virginia in October 2014
The skeet whooshed towards the heavens. My right eye stared ahead with the barrel flush. I had developed a rhythm with the saucer: After it launched I waited until it reached a precise point in my field of vision and then I pulled the trigger. Without patience, my aim would be low and the saucer would continue its original trajectory until it fell to the ground. So I waited and then, click, the target erupted, its orange pieces blending with the sky like a perfect match on the color wheel.

I hit 11 of 25 skeets. My friend Rachel, who I'm sure shot guns growing up based on my generalization of people from Arkansas and who say things like, "My drinking water had tadpoles," only shot two. She hit her first, missed the next 23, and ended with a bang. Rachel sat against a rock and watched others in our group shoot. She smiled and now said things like, "I have not spent time outside in days. It is beautiful."

There was not a cloud above us and Rachel, a Fulbright scholar, began telling me a story about the sky. If people had never been told the sky was blue then they may see it as white, another color, or simply a void. Those people may have as much trouble wrapping their heads around the blue sky as I have around not seeing it as blue.

I can't see Rachel in a different light, either. When I met her 2.5 years ago I saw a radiant and beautiful 27-year-old whose attitude matched her use of exclamation points. She told me stories back then, too, like the meaning of interrobang, which is a combination of an exclamation point and a question mark, and how she was diagnosed at 26 with stage 3 colon cancer that would later spread to her ovaries and omentum, "upgrading" the cancer to stage 4. Rachel would stay on treatment forever, in a concept that is new to me and the way I had "finished" cancer treatment when I was a teen: Rachel was living with cancer. Keep reading I Remember Rachel for Her Ferocity for Life, Not Cancer.

Leia Mais…

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Biggest, Baddest, Raddest Wedding: My Bro Got Married

I didn’t dance with that pretty girl nearly enough. I missed seeing the bouquet toss, cake cutting, mother-son and father-daughter dances, and my dad hopping on the drums to “Sweet Caroline.”

I accept all these failings because NoCommonSense and I crushed our best men speech that included Hulk Hogan’s theme song.

I have spoken many times to audiences as large as a few hundred about cancer stealing my physical abilities and chunks of my adolescence. Unlike those speeches, the attempted humor-to-sentiment ratio for our best men speech was a whopping 95 to 5 percent. And unlike all those others, this best men speech weighed on me for days because I had thought I might cry, a terrifying and previously unfathomable possibility.

Thankfully adrenaline ensured I didn’t. I was so relieved when we finished our speech. I said, “Shots!” and a few of us left the banquet room for the bar in the lobby. The bartender said she wasn’t allowed to serve shots.

“But we’re the best men!” I said.

I dont give a fuuuck, I saw her thinking.

We settled with drinks on the rocks.

My relief that we gave a good speech and that I didn’t mewl led to me mostly staying in the lobby for the next three hours of the biggest, baddest and raddest wedding I’ve ever attended. That’s why I missed seeing most of the traditional wedding activities.

JD and I grew up playing the same sports, listening to the same music, and enjoying the same TV shows and movies. Almost everything he enjoyed, I did, too, in part because I envied everything about my big brother and followed his lead.

There is some nature on top of all that nurture, though. Different people consider different types of foods their kryptonite, but for both of us it is candy and only candy. We are both organized and hyper-productive, often speeding through life in order to accomplish what we desire during our short waking hours. Lolo, my new sister-in-law, once noticed that we each stood holding our drinks in identical positions and had condensation spots on our shirts in identical places from where our glasses touched.

We are different in ways, too. He has always been more outgoing, quick on his feet and magnetic. I always had a sense that he was my big brother, no matter that as time goes on our three-year difference in age becomes a smaller percentage of the total. I look back to six years ago when we visited NoCommonSense in Hawaii. I am three years older than JD was then, yet it feels like the opposite. I look back further to my bone marrow transplant when JD was 22, and I still see him then as older than I am now.

We also differed in our ability to retain autobiographical memories. Until a few years ago, my memory was among my best assets. I could recall most every event and detail. I miss that ability, and blame its disappearance on the accumulation of memories, alcohol, restricting my calories (and energy for my brain), and especially cancer treatment.

Now I use tricks to recall and retain memories, which involve all the senses and not just sight and hearing. When I write about cancer treatment, I first think about how the big blue chemo chair felt to the touch. On my road trip last month I listened to the new Mumford & Sons album on repeat, and now when I hear “Believe,” visions of the Million Dollar Highway enter my mind.

I forgot to connect my brother's wedding to a feeling or song, but I know I’ll never forget how happy JD was. I’m one proud younger brother as my family is now greater. Lolo is also a Redskins fan. That doesn’t add to the greatness; rather, it was a requirement to begin with.

Mazel tov!

Couple getting introduced for first time at wedding at Fairmont Washington DC, Georgetown

Leia Mais…