Friday, May 15, 2015

Remembering That One Memorable Trip

Whenever I fly I recall my first trip to Minneapolis with my parents in March 2003 when I was 19 years old. My life was stalled, I had dropped out of college and cancer was rapidly invading my bone marrow. Though, physically I felt fine. I felt great. I loved that trip and I had life-or-death purpose, or maybe I loved it because I had life-or-death purpose.

We traveled across the country to spend a day at the University of Minnesota Medical Center and speak with Dr. Andre Million. It was one of the top children’s transplant centers and he was one of its rock star transplant oncologists. Minneapolis symbolized hope.

My mom and I teased my dad for his fear of flying. He stared out the window wondering why the wing was slightly bouncing. “That wing is flapping because it’s going to fall off!” he said. Mom and I introduced him to Benadryl after that. I smile thinking of his quizzical expression.

Right now I’m sitting in the airport to begin a ten-day vacation. I’m flying to Denver, renting a car and driving to Vegas, stopping all along the way. My smile has faded as I realize how much time has passed since that 2003 trip. Did I accomplish what my 19-year-old self envisioned?

Road trip itinerary from Denver to Las Vegas
Road trippin' from Denver to Las Vegas in a Chrysler 200
Let’s say one of my books became a bestseller, I accumulated enough wealth to never need to work, and I gave the University of Virginia commencement speech instead of Peyton Manning. Those pretend accomplishments may actually be in descending order of likelihood: lots of books become bestsellers, far fewer earn their authors enormous wealth, and you have to be a sorcerer to overtop Manning for anything.

But none of those would have been as meaningful as searching for the transplant center we hoped would save me. It did. Minneapolis now symbolizes a clean slate, my cleanser, and my ultimate achievement.

I remind myself every day how fortunate I am. I must never forget: the Holocaust, what it is like to suffer with cancer, and what it is like to live with the clarity of life-or-death purpose. I ache for that purpose which is a losing battle. I never want to experience significant illness again, but without it I cannot experience that same purpose.

This vacation has a less meaningful purpose, of course. I just want to see the world and connect with people—some new people, and some old friends. Snooki and I will debate kale versus holy water in Vail. Colossus and I will catch up on the last decade while getting rich on Vegas blackjack tables. And Scooter and I will climb rocks in Durango.

It would take a lot more than Bendaryl to convince my dad to climb mountains with us. Mom and Dad can sit this one out.

Leia Mais…

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Join Me Again in Lighting Blood Cancer on Fire

Read the short story below, or skip it and immediately donate to LLS through my Circle of Hope page here.

Benjamin Rubenstein 2014 LLS Man & Woman of the Year candidate
“I read about this cancer-slayer . . .” the emcee said at last year’s Man & Woman of the Year Grand Finale Gala before announcing that I won an award for having dedicated myself to fighting blood cancers. I was a Man & Woman of the Year candidate and my CancerSlayer fundraising team raised over $50,000 for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

Campaigning was exhilarating, rewarding and, I thought, my one chance to give back. It also required a time commitment akin to a second job, which is why I’ll likely never do it again.

Just like Kristen Stewart after cheating on that dude from Twilight, I have a second chance.

I love LLS and its mission and passionate supporters, so I joined its leadership team. I mentor a wonderful and upbeat fellow survivor as she campaigns for this year’s Man & Woman of the Year. I also raise money for the Leadership Team Circle of Hope.

As a whole leadership team we are trying to raise $100,000. I will not sit at a diner table until my computer battery dies like last year and text, Facebook-message, and email friends asking for donations. I will not put $6,000 on the line, determined to reach my fundraising target no matter what.

I am asking if you’ll help me fight blood cancers. I’m not asking out of desire for personal recognition or a title. I just want to fight fire with fire and you can help us build one gigantic match. Watch this four-minute video with LLS-funded researcher Carl June to see what that match can do.

Together let’s light cancer’s ass up by donating to the Leadership Team Circle of Hope.
Thank you.
-The Cancerslayer

Leia Mais…

Thursday, April 23, 2015

How Not to Raise Your Tween Daughter

As published on The Huffington Post

I am the "father" to my nearly-12-year-old bone marrow "daughter." Twelve years ago, I received a bone marrow transplant to treat myelodysplastic syndrome. My bone marrow donor was an anonymous baby girl, whose umbilical cord stem cells had been collected and stored and were then transplanted into me because they closely matched my cells. That baby girl's cells repopulated in my body and I now have her healthy, disease-free and totally female blood. I think of these new cells of mine collectively as my daughter, and I named her Bone Marrow.

Bone Marrow is a young woman now. I knew this day would come. I even tried slowing her white breast cell and other physical developments by taking tamoxifen, so that the boy bone marrows wouldn't get frisky. I stopped that after they caused my erotic dreams with Glenn Beck. Keep reading How Not to Raise Your Tween Daughter.

Leia Mais…

Monday, April 13, 2015

HuffPost Live, I Am with You: Love Letters to Cancer Patients, and Cancervention

Now that March Madness is over I am allowed to be busy.

I will be on HuffPost Live today, Tuesday, April 14, at 3 p.m. ET. Don't judge when my makeup isn't up to the standard of Kim Kardashian. HuffPost Live is a live-streaming network that attempts to create the most social video experience possible.

My first work published in 1994, in the Anthology of Poetry by Young Americans. My poem, titled Washing Dishes, began "Washing dishes is not fun." Nothing has ever been more true.

Then I wrote two books about surviving two cancers when I was a teenager—Twice and Secrets of the Cancer-Slaying Super Man. And now this: my article To My Next 30 Cancer-Free Years published in the lovely book I Am with You: Love Letters to Cancer Patients.

I Am with You includes 46 short essays compiled by Nancy Novack and published last month. Nancy's goal is to make I Am with You available "to the patients who need us the most when they need our support. . . . to place the books in the patients' hands, the waiting rooms, the infusion and radiation centers, the gift and supply stores, survivor conferences and retreats, the libraries, medical schools."

I am honored to be part of this book. Read more about I Am with You on Amazon. You can also read To My Next 30 Cancer-Free Years on The Huffington Post.
I Am With You: Love Letters to Cancer Patients

I'm speaking at Young Adult Cancer Connection's Cancervention event on April 18 in Philadelphia, as a survivor panelist. You can read my interview with YACC. If you live around Philadelphia then join us on Saturday by registering for Cancervention.
Young Adult Cancer Connection Cancervention event April 18, 2015

Leia Mais…

Monday, March 30, 2015

Why Everyone on the Planet Should Read or Watch ‘Emperor of All Maladies’

I speak at George Mason University every semester. Professor K invites me to share my story with students in her men’s health and human sexuality classes. My memoir is now part of the curriculum for the men’s health class, and Professor K’s students were required to read it and submit questions for when I visited two weeks ago.

Are you still friends with your friends from the book, like Worm?

Absolutely! Though Worm moved to Leesburg which is an hour away and may as well be in a different state.

Is your left ball still big?

Yep! I have a hydrocele that doesn’t affect me. It’s just there.

How do you feel about cancer now?

Cancer has killed some of my friends and recurred in others. Some friends are living with it forever. For some, there is no treatment. These friends despise every aspect of cancer.

I am nearly 12 years cancer-free from my second cancer. Despite the odds against this, I am very healthy and don’t have debilitating late effects that require daily attention. I am free to spend my time however I want. I feel fortunate for this. Every morning I look at my tattoo in the mirror and say a prayer giving thanks. Cancer has given me a different perspective and I can’t imagine not having that.

Do you think your parents played a role in your survival?

Yes. So did the amazing doctors and nurses, who are so good at their jobs because they have to be, because their margin for error is sometimes zero. And so did the people who paved the way for the treatments I received.

The mascot of the astrological sign, Cancer, is the crab

I read the Pulitzer-Prize-winning book The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer three years ago. Emperor tracks the history of cancer in people since the Egyptians first recorded it thousands of years ago. Cancer has always developed in people.

Emperor explains the beginning of modern cancer treatment including when scientists discovered that radiation kills cancer cells but they didn’t understand that healthy tissue could only tolerate so much radiation. This led to total destruction. Emperor details the beginning of treatment for children with leukemia. Since all the kids would die anyway—by bleeding out through orifices or other horrific ways—doctors could try different treatments on them. Those doctors and patients and their families sacrificed lives to reach viable and successful treatment we see today, including five-year survival rates at about 90 percent for some forms of leukemia.

Emperor taught me about the chemotherapy drugs I received and how they were discovered, and about my cancers and how the cells evaded my immune system. Cancer cells are so remarkable that I wonder how anyone can be healthy and cancer-free 12 years later.

One of my favorite organizations is the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. I am proud to participate with LLS, which I started doing last year through Man & Woman of the Year and will continue indefinitely. I even love its motto Someday is Today, a hopeful statement that together we can find a cure soon.

I’ll keep hoping with LLS because hopefulness is one of humanity’s greatest assets. I’ll also keep consuming pounds of vegetables, eating foods with a low glycemic index, and restricting my calories because these are supposedly among my best assets for preventing cancer. Even if part of me thinks cancer will never go away in people and the difference between having cancer and not having it is almost entirely random.

Last week I was invited to the sneak peak of Cancer: The Emperor of All Maladies, a film spanning three nights based on the book, on PBS beginning tonight at 9 p.m. ET. The sneak peak began with the narrator saying, “More will die from cancer over the next two years than died in combat in all the wars the United States has ever fought, combined.”

Cancer is the supreme king of disease as millions of people fight to escape its rule, and The Emperor of All Maladies tells this story. The book is among the best I’ve read and the film, presented by Ken Burns, promises to be eye-opening.

Do you worry about getting cancer again?

No. I live a healthy lifestyle and am forever striving to better myself. If something catastrophic were to happen then I’d know I did everything that I could. I live without regrets.

Leia Mais…