Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Quarter Mile of Shit

Five months after my transplant I was FUCKED UP. My organs were confused as to what they were supposed to do. My kidneys had become stupid, my lungs decided to collect microscopic organisms, my gallbladder went into hibernation, and my intestines were involved in the most extreme bowel transition ever.

It all started when my hospital made an error, which resulted in a pooping incident never before seen in human history. When it was over, it took an entire day for me to re-hydrate from all the fluid I’d lost to the toilet. After that I decided I wasn’t going to shit again for the rest of my life.

This resolution lasted two weeks, which turns out to be an insanely long time to go without defecating. The next week I had mild, constant abdominal pain on my left side, which I thought was a strained muscle. My doctor ordered me an X-ray and the picture wasn’t pretty. I had a massive collection of excrement.


“I have a quarter-mile back-up of shit,” I told people.

Instructions to insert suppositoryOver the next two weeks I ingested every laxative and stool softener ever created, including a couple suppositories. When I shoved the capsule up my ass I closed my eyes, as if that would make any difference. Finally, the medicine pushed the shit through the winding corridors of my bowels—slowly, painfully, grotesquely. It felt like a small eruption took place in my upper bowel and pushed everything nanometers at a time. Over and over and over again. Through the course of frequent and long shit-capades spanning three days, I cleaned house.

I must have overdosed on laxatives because I had crazy diarrhea the next week. As if things couldn’t get worse, Hurricane Isabel ripped through Virginia one of the nights. We lost power, and some news stations predicted certain areas wouldn’t get it back for a few days.

This left me with two problems. First, what the hell would I do without electricity? No TV, PlayStation or movies. What am I going to do—read? I’m not even sure if I know how anymore. And more importantly, since my house uses well water, each of our three toilets could only be flushed once. But I was shitting several times each day, not to mention all the courtesy flushes. I refuse to take a shit in a toilet that already has shit in it.

My mom thought of one solution. She started calling everyone she knew in our neighborhood to see if they had water. “We need to transport buckets of water for Benjamin,” she said.

“What does he need water for?” my neighbors asked.

“Well…he poops a lot and needs water to flush.”

Fortunately, our power came back and no buckets of water were needed.

Related story:
I Thought Hurricane Season was Over

Leia Mais…

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Soy Queen

Back in the day I drank chocolate milk every night with dinner. Nesquik tasted better, but Hershey’s was healthier because it was low fat. A tough decision, but I was a winner either way. Back in the day my friend Infincuralier and I frequently went to Dairy Queen. He always got the Brownie Earthquake and I would order the strawberry shortcake.

After my transplant, all of that changed.

Box of TastyKake Kandy KakesMy first allergic reaction happened shortly after eating a Tastycake peanut butter Kandy Kake, whilst drinking chocolate milk. My lip swelled like a balloon, and I was quick to lay the blame on peanuts. Everybody knows peanut is the most common allergy, and I wasn’t about to relinquish my Nesquik.

Things got worse.

At the beginning of my first semester back at college I had a severe allergic reaction nearly every night. On several occasions I put my roommate on guard, in case he needed to take me to the ER. Twice we had our shoes on ready to leave, right as the Benadryl began to kick in.

All of my reactions consisted of any or all of three symptoms:

  1. Any part of my mouth, lips, tongue or throat swelled and itched.
  2. My skin broke out in itchy, red hives.
  3. My chest tightened, reducing my ability to breath.

My reaction would take place nearly an hour after returning home from the dining hall every night. The only thing I could do was take Benadryl and wait, hoping my histamine went away before the reaction became dangerous. For weeks I had no idea what was causing this. I finally realized the only consistent item in my nightly diet was the chocolate milk I drank.

And just like that, my days of drinking chocolate milk were over.

Surely ice cream couldn’t cause the same problem, could it? Only one way to find out. Infincuralier and I went to Dairy Queen and got the usual. I popped one Benadryl before eating, and another after. I still felt a bit funny, but I couldn’t tell if I was imagining things.

I had to test it again, so when my family went to Virginia Beach for vacation, I ate strawberry shortcake at Dairy Queen. Sure enough, all three symptoms hit me hard. So hard that two Benadryl and four hours later, my lower lip looked like it had swallowed the rest of my face. My dad and I went to the ER.

Is it just a coincidence that my new allergy coincided with my transplant? No. It was just one of the many gifts given to me by my donor.

I really struggled with my new allergy. I had little trouble handling cancer, chemo and a transplant, but that damn milk allergy was getting the best of me. I tried switching to orange juice, but the acid often gave me heartburn. Grape juice was next. But I kept spilling it on my shirt and staining my clothes. As a last resort I began drinking water with my meals. Do you know what water tastes like? It fucking tastes like water! If you don’t believe me you can try it yourself, if you dare.

I became very spiritual and dove into the depths of my soul for answers. Why me? Why does it have to be milk? Why couldn’t it just be that damn Tastycake and peanuts?

My mom urged me to try soy substitutes, but I refused out of principle. Milk was dead to me.

The following year I complained to my roommate T-Unit about my dry cereal. The loud crunch every morning was causing me to lose my mind. My grades and social life suffered as a result. T-Unit finally convinced me to try soy milk with my cereal. I was reluctant, but had no other choice. It was either try the soy milk, or perish.

“You know,” I said during my first bowl, “this is actually really good. If I pour just the right amount of milk in the bowl I can moisten my flakes without actually tasting the milk.”

“Rubenstein, I’m truly happy for you.”

My mom even convinced me to try soy ice cream, but the two flavors I tried tasted terrible. “Don’t bother me about it anymore. I hate this stuff.”

I longed for my Dairy Queen strawberry shortcakes.

Then, something miraculous happened. This past Monday I had gum surgery and will be on a soft diet for two weeks. In order to consume enough calories, I had to give soy ice cream one more chance. My mom bought me the chocolate fudge brownie flavor and it was fantastic. Not only that, but for dinner last night I poured a glass of white soy milk and added two tablespoons of Nesquik powder.

Back in the day I drank chocolate milk every night with dinner. It shall continue.


Postscript: As it turns out, I am allergic to peanuts, as well.

Leia Mais…

Friday, May 18, 2007


Red heartWhen I was in the 6th grade, my friend Daisy started a rumor that I liked one of the hottest 11 year olds, Hoja. The rumor spread like wildfire, and by the end of the day everyone knew about my supposed crush.

On the bus ride home I angrily asked Daisy, “Why did you tell people I liked Hoja?”

“I saw you sitting across from her in math class and noticed you blushing,” she said. “I was just joking about the rumor. It’s not true, is it?”

“Yeah, it’s true,” I replied.

“Oh I’m sorry…Do you want me to ask her out for you?”

“Umm…I guess. But don’t tell her I told you to.”

“Okay, I’ll ask her tomorrow,” Daisy said.

The next afternoon on the bus Daisy told me that Hoja had declined her offer. I didn’t speak to Hoja the rest of 6th grade, and was ecstatic when she moved away the following year.

Little did I know my sixth grade self was setting the pattern that would hold for years to come. Here are the best of my more recent strikeouts.

I see a girl sitting at a table with her friends. I approach.

Me: Hi, can I buy you a drink?
Chick: No.

Quick, simple and to the point. I like that. Come to think of it, I don’t think she even looked at me. I’m not sure if that’s a good or bad thing.

I went to William & Mary to visit my friend. The whole college has only a couple bars, one of which is more of a deli. It’s pathetic. Anyway, after eating a beef brisket sandwich, a herd of girls came in following a sorority function. Maybe it was the brisket, but I felt bold.

Me: Hey, how are you?
Chick: I’m alright.
Me: I’m Ben, I go to UVA. What’s your name?
Chick: UVA…you suck!

There was no way to feel bad about that exchange. Being disqualified on account of my school is downright discrimination. Plus I give her props – that was fucking hilarious.

I was throwing the best game of my life on this girl. I was witty, pleasant, and polite. At the end of our conversation she spelled it out: "I’m married."

If I had “Tivo for real life” then I’d rewind and record my dialogue, then use it on a different, unmarried girl. Conversation like that only happens once a year. It’s a shame I wasted it on a married woman. Better luck next year.


For hours I was thinking of the words I would tell her. I was nervous as hell, so they didn’t come out exactly as I had prepared.

Me: There’s something I’ve been meaning to get off my chest…I have a crush on you.
Chick: Really? I had no idea.
Me: Yeah. For like two months now.
Chick: Wow…thanks.

That’s the exact response I was looking for. In retrospect I should’ve said, “You’re welcome.”

The next day I sent her an email that read, “Sorry about yesterday. That’s something that nobody should ever do sober.”


The bar was crowded this night. The music was loud and the pressure was on. I casually walked over to a girl standing by herself and did my thing as nobody else can. The conversation seemed to be going well until:

Me: I’d offer to buy you a drink, but…I see…you’re holding one in your hand right now.
Chick: Uh yeah. Good observation.
Me: Thank you.

Perhaps the smart move would be to walk away at that point. But I persisted until I couldn’t think of anything else to say. There was a long pause, and then I ended it with:

Me: I’m going to go over there and see what my buddy’s up to. It’s nice to meet you. My name is Ben, but I don’t think you gave me yours.
Chick: Yes I did. It’s Gayle.
Me: Oh...Well, see ya later.

I really have to work on remembering names. Or, simply the fact that she already told me one.

I saw her the following week and approached her, again.

Me: I remember you from last week. And I know your name this time. It’s Kayle.
Chick: No it’s not. It’s Gayle.


I’m a wee bit intoxicated, and it’s the end of the night. I decide to set up shop in one section and start dancing by myself. My friend Zeke is laughing at me, as well he should. After several seconds of this disgrace, a very tall girl gets behind me and starts dancing. She had to be at least six feet tall. With my back to her, I signal to Zeke that this girl is huge.

What is my signal, you ask?

I lift my arm in the air above my head and move my hand up and down like an elevator. “She’s a monster,” I whisper to Zeke. I hope she doesn’t hear me, or see my easily visible hand.

I move right. She moves with me.
I move left. She moves with me.
I move right again. She moves with me.

Then, she taps me on the shoulder.

“No, I’m actually just trying to get by,” she says.

Guys can only dream of being that suave.

More of my Strikeouts here: Strikeout: Part II

Leia Mais…

Monday, May 14, 2007

Spank Bank: Part II

Black and white cartoon video cameraA while back I told the Spank Bank story to my friend, Colossus. He laughed his ass off, then stopped and looked at me funny.

“What?” I asked.

“The last time I was in a hospital I passed by the nursing station,” he replied.

Colossus began his usual demonic laughter.

“Yeah, so, what’s your point?”

“Dude, when I passed by, I looked at their monitors…they have cameras in every patient’s room.”


“I’m serious. They have cameras so they know when the patient’s in trouble. Your #1 hottie saw you.”

Now he was laughing uncontrollably. I tried to look for any bit of truth in that, but couldn’t think above his laughter. “Would you just shut up for one second!”

I mentally took myself back to my hospital room and scanned the ceiling. HEPA filter in one corner. The door near another. The other two corners…shit, I don’t remember.

I didn’t believe Colossus, but I had to make certain. I called my nursing friend.

“Is there any chance after my transplant there was a camera in my room?” I asked her.

“I don’t think so,” she said. “I’ve never heard of that before.”

“That’s good.”

“Why do you ask?”

“…Um…No reason.”

Fucking Colossus.

Leia Mais…

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Bad Dream

Shuttle in spaceI’m in a small, futuristic room full of monitors. I get the feeling we’re on some kind of space shuttle, or at least what looks like one. And although it seems like we’re in the future, I still look the same. I must age well. My family and Dr. P are in the room with me.

The room has all the makings of a hospital and I’m lying on the bed because I have cancer, again. Luckily, this time there is no year of treatment and no two-month hospital stay. The entire treatment regimen is two extremely intense days of chemotherapy.

“Is it really only two days?” I ask.

“Yes,” Dr. P replies. “We’re going to pound you into oblivion.”

“Ah, whatever. I’ve had worse. So, when do I begin?”

“Right now, actually. I’m going to put you to sleep for this, and you’ll awaken in a few hours. Is that okay?”

“Sure, let’s get started.”

And just like that, I’m asleep as new chemotherapy targeting my third cancer courses through my veins.

Hours later I am awake. I check out my surroundings.

Everything looks the same. Did I really just get chemo?

“How are you feeling?” somebody asks me.

“Fine. Is it over?”

“Yeah, for today. After tomorrow you’ll be done.”

Dr. P walks in my room to take some blood. She says she’ll have the results late in the afternoon.

I watch TV until she calls me into her office a few hours later. She has a large desk made of dark brown wood. I think it’s mahogany. From behind the massive structure she tells me something.

“Ben, you’re good to go. You don’t need to stick around tomorrow.”

“Really? That’s awesome. But, I thought I was going to get more chemo tomorrow.”

“No, you don’t need it anymore.”

I stood up and started moving toward the door. Then I stopped and looked back.

“I’ve changed my mind. It was supposed to be only two days, and I’m ready for more tomorrow. Then I’ll be done.”

“That’s the thing…you can’t get anymore chemo.”

“…What do you mean?”

“I mean your organs can’t take anymore. I’m sorry Ben.”

I paused to think about the meaning of her words.

“But if it was supposed to be two days and I’m only getting one, then the cancer is still alive. What are you trying to say, Dr. P?”

“I’m telling you that’s it…it’s over.”

Then, I wake up and look around. Everything looks pretty standard. Computer to the right, TV in front. No fancy monitors and no space shuttle.

Leia Mais…

Monday, May 7, 2007

Size 16 in the Crotch

This may be the funniest picture I've ever seen.

Angry girl kicks boy in crotch with giant shoe

I have a few questions I would love to ask the dude:
  1. Is that what you call dancing?
  2. What did you do to piss off PsychoGirl?
  3. On a scale of 1-10, how much do your balls hurt right now?
A few more for PsychoGirl:
  1. How big is your shoe?
  2. Why do you want to take away his manhood?
  3. You have a crush on him, don't you?
What makes it so funny is the guy looks a bit like The Stumbler.

Leia Mais…

Friday, May 4, 2007

Like a Rock

I would rather have diarrhea than constipation. But as I said in Pooping Your Pants Is Cool, cancer patients don’t get to choose. For the entire year of my first cancer, I had to battle rock-hard shits.

If you think it’s strange that I can openly discuss my past bowel troubles, you’re probably right. But that’s what my hospital friends and I did more than anything else – we talked about pooping. We talked about it with our family, doctors, nurses, friends and each other.

Our bowel conditions essentially became a sign of our relative health. We may have had massive tumors and our white blood cells may have been close to zero, but if our constipation was under control then we were perfectly fine.

Most of us had our surgeries after our fifth cycle of chemo. Cancer surgery is generally not something people look forward to, yet it did have some benefits. In particular, there was a brief reprieve from extreme constipation. Although my bowels still weren’t even close to normal because of the narcotics, that paled in comparison to chemo.

PeriColace drug advertisementTo battle my rocks, I was prescribed the stool softener Colace. It works by increasing the amount of water the shit absorbs in the gut. Nowadays I would consider Colace to be a small pill. However, back then I was so bad at taking pills that I could barely swallow a multivitamin, and missed many of my Colace doses.

Without getting into the details, let’s just say I had an “incident.” After that misfortune, I had to switch to the liquid form of Colace, which happens to be one of the worst-tasting substances I’ve ever consumed. Each dose was an entire medicine cup, and had to be taken with eight ounces of water. I was taking it up to four times a day.

One night I was watching The Exorcist with my brother and his friend in the basement, and totally forgot about my nightly dose. Of course my parents didn’t forget and poured it for me. When I went upstairs to go to bed I saw that dreaded cup full of red nastiness. I was heartbroken.

In order to prepare myself, I composed a short jingle entitled “Colace.” It went like this:

Time for me to drink my Colace
It tastes so good
I gotta drink my Colace
I bet you wish you could!

Coming to a radio near you.

My battle with constipation didn’t end with Colace. That red nastiness wasn’t enough to tame the beast, so my nurse practitioner Kiva also prescribed mineral oil twice a day. It was so thick that it took two swigs to finish each dose, which was half a medicine cup.

What is mineral oil?

Mineral oil is the by-product lubricant in the production of gasoline.

No joke.

The oil left a Neosporin-like film around my mouth, which still wasn’t as gross as the end result…in the toilet after a bowel movement. I shat out the oil intact.

On rare occasions, the combination of Colace and mineral oil wasn’t enough. Kiva would then add milk of magnesia or high-powered laxatives to the arsenal. Essentially, there was an “object” blocking the exit, and all of the medicine went to work on the poop above the blockage. Again I won’t go into details, but you can imagine what happened when the “object” exited.

I’ve always been a huge fan of McDonald’s. I just love it. Sometimes I’d pick up McDonald’s breakfast on the way to my checkups. Kiva, amused with my obsession, said, “I don’t know how you can eat those greasy hash browns. But I tell you what, if you ate those every day then you’d never have to drink mineral oil again.”

Leia Mais…