Wednesday, April 25, 2018

A Conversation With My Bone Marrow on Her 15th Birthday

Yesterday marked my fifteenth straight year without cancer. I think about that. I even conversed with my bone marrow about it. And of course I wrote about it.

As published on GatherDC

My 15-year-old “daughter” says that since I was born in the period when the sun passed through the constellation Capricornus, I’m—according to her favorite lifestyle magazine Elle—charming, graceful, and a freak in the sheets, lady in the streets. My daughter says this as we sit at our pollen-covered bistro set on the covered balcony of our ninth-floor apartment overlooking Crystal and Pentagon Cities. Clouds have rolled in and it has begun raining.

“I’m so glad I got that messy self-exploration out of the way!” I tell my daughter. “Now that I know myself fully, I can begin honing my sheets-and-streets skills.”

It’s cool being able to talk like this with my daughter. Though, that’s because I didn’t conceive her. She’s the stem cells collected from an anonymous baby girl’s umbilical cord. The cells were transplanted into me on April 24, 2003, to treat my second cancer called myelodysplasia. Those stem cells repopulated inside my bone marrow, and now my blood is her XX blood. My immune system is partially hers. I am partially her. Keep reading A Conversation With My Bone Marrow on Her 15th Birthday

Benjamin Rubenstein holding his umbilical cord stem cells in April 2003 before his bone marrow transplant

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Thursday, March 22, 2018

Words by ruBENstein Quarterly Newsletter - Spring 2018

I published the second edition of my quarterly email newsletter today. Check out my latest Words by ruBENstein or subscribe to it. Every three months I'll share: one or two of my recent stories plus an oldie but goodie; my most popular social media post; and one story and life lesson from one of writing's greats.

Words by ruBENstein quarterly newsletter

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Thursday, March 15, 2018

The Power of March Madness Compels Me

“Don’t talk trash about your University of Virginia men’s basketball team unless they win,” my once-removed first cousin said.

My once-removed first cousin is one of my elders and is often right. I’m usually wrong. Maybe, I’m always wrong. Regardless, this time I rejected his 69 years of wisdom. I said, “I can’t contain myself.” The power of March Madness compels me. THE POWER OF MARCH MADNESS COMPELS ME!

Singing University of Virginia Good Old Song
Watching Virginia clobber Connecticut in football at Scott Stadium in Charlottesville on Sept. 16, 2017, with three of my closest friends from our first-year hall in Humphreys dorm. Photo by Abbey Beckwith Miller.

In a four-person group text message thread, BBear wrote, “It would be great to win the Atlantic Coast Conference Men's Basketball Tournament, but it’s not necessary, and losing wouldn’t bounce us from a 1 seed. In fact, if we win just the first game in the ACC Tournament, that all but guarantees us the top seed overall.”

In that same thread, Hamburgers wrote, “It’s crazy, we’ve come so far that I don’t even care about the ACC title that much. When you win the regular season by four games, the tournament is kind of meaningless.”

I wrote, “Fuck that, I want the ACC title, too. I want it all. Fuck the rest of them.”

And when we won the ACC Tournament, I wrote, “I FUCKING WANT IT ALL. THE WORLD IS OURS. WAHOOWA.”

After the announcement that Virginia’s redshirt freshman forward De’Andre Hunter, who won the ACC's Sixth Man of the Year honor, got injured and can’t play again this year, BBear wrote, “Why does God hate us?”

Hamburgers then wrote, “Sigh, it’s great to win the ACC title, but that’s somewhat meaningless given our hopes this year. It’s a shame to see him injured like that.”

T-Unit then wrote, “He was the reason for my optimism. Now, I’d be lying if I said I felt confident about this being the year.”

T-Unit added, “😡 😠 😧😩 😢 😭”

Hamburgers responded, “I am driving, and Siri is describing all these emojis to me. It is amazing.”

I wrote, “Damn, now I really want to hear a robot explain those emojis to me, too.”

But more importantly I wrote, “Let’s calm down. Maybe we are the college basketball version of the Patriots. Players get tendon ruptures and concussions and murder humans, and they just keep winning.”


I’m ready for it: during my lifetime, only one of the sports teams I follow (Washington Redskins) has won its league’s championship, and those wins occurred when I was 4 and 8.

I’m all-in: this Virginia team has among the best defenses in the history of college basketball. It has at least two fewer losses than every other Division I team in the country.

The Virginia basketball team represents the American dream: there is just one McDonald’s All-American on the team, whereas last season the University of North Carolina had six McDonald’s All-Americans on its roster, Kentucky had five, and Duke had seven. Virginia gives its full effort on every defensive possession whereas many players on other teams play defense just as a means to get on offense.

So yeah, the power of March Madness compels me to talk some trash now. Virginia is America! Virginia’s head coach Tony Bennett may be a saint! Maybe he should be the U.S. president! Nevermind, because that would mean he would leave Virginia! I’d actually give him money directly or sexual favors to stay at Virginia and not be president (or the head coach of any other team)! Scratch that sexual favors statement, he’s like married and shit and I like women! But no seriously, I’d try to keep him in Virginia BY ANY MEANS! In January, Virginia held North Carolina to 49 points for the whole game! In November, Virginia held Wisconsin to 37 points for the whole game! That’s fucking insane! Happy March Madness! Wahoowa! Wahoowa! WAHOOWA!

Learn about the current and future pharmaceuticals marketplace from expert perspectives across the pharmaceuticals field at Johns Hopkins Carey Business School’s Drug Accessibility and Pricing Symposium on March 19. I’ll be sharing the patient perspective in the late afternoon panel, "Where Do We Go From Here?" Registration is free online.

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Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Two Disabled Cousins Slash Friends: Beyond the Tent and Into the Metro

I went on a Jewish retreat two weekends ago at Pearlstone Conference and Retreat Center in Reisterstown, Maryland. Well, not exactly. That sounds too culty. It was more like a retreat for Jews who aren’t really Jews. Well, I should clarify that. We’re Jews, but some of us just don’t do traditionally Jew-y things.

I wrote about that powerful experience, and you can read that story below.

As published in GatherDC

Kenny and I entered the Metro car at 8:30 on a Wednesday night after happy hour – and then some – at Carving Room in Chinatown. The Yellow-line train heading south was sparse. One woman wearing a pinstripe suit sat in the first row on the far side, and one man wearing a solid green necktie tied in a full Windsor knot read a paperback from his seat behind her.

“Aren’t you going to take that?” Kenny said, pointing to the open row just to my right knee as I walked in. Those were the seats above which was a blue sign of a person in a wheelchair.

I laughed. I had the kind of anything-goes camaraderie with Kenny, also known as my Taller-Younger-Yet Older-Looking Cousin. We’d just spent two-and-a-half hours volleying ideas about hosting a podcast. The podcast’s working title: “Two Disabled Cousins Slash Friends.”

Okay, so the title may need more work.

Taller-Younger-Yet Older-Looking Cousin has an obsessive disorder that can limit his activities. Ask Kenny and he’ll accurately state that his cousin Ben (that’s me) has many disorders. The most obvious is physical: I use crutches when I walk long distances. I call them my quadsteppers.

My quadsteppers and I fell into the row adjacent to the one reserved for disabled individuals, which Taller-Younger-Yet Older-Looking Cousin took. His joke led me to think of my interaction from twelve hours earlier. I began sharing this story as our train accelerated towards Archives-Navy Memorial-Penn Quarter station. Keep reading Two Disabled Cousins Slash Friends: Beyond the Tent and Into the Metro

In the Media
There were four people named Ben on my Beyond the Tent retreat. Gather DC interviewed us as the Jew(s) of the Week.

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