Friday, February 22, 2008

Fix Me (Part IV of IV)

Read these first:
Fix Me (Part I of IV)
Fix Me (Part II of IV)
Fix Me (Part III of IV)

Can humans survive a month without food? I finally started feeling better when summer fruits were hitting the markets. Of all the foods I could’ve eaten, I wanted fruit the most. I imagined the sweet taste, first bite, and juice running down my chin.

A nice man who volunteered to assist patients' families brought me plums, nectarines and peaches. I was so excited that I may not have slept the night before. But, the day he delivered them I developed an infection with yellow fungus growing on my tongue. I tried so hard just to sniff the nectarine, but I couldn’t. It was crushing, something I perceived as a major setback. I was so close, but it would be several more weeks before I could enjoy my first nectarine.

My hospital discharge also kept getting delayed. I developed problems I hadn’t heard of or known were even possible. And then, one day almost out of the blue, everything cleared up and I was discharged to our apartment two blocks away.

I was in the hospital for so long that I forgot what fresh air felt like, or what the world looked like without glass in front. I took my first step out of the hospital’s rotating doors that cloudy afternoon. I snapped a mental photograph so I’d never forget. The colors, the smell, the feeling were spectacular. It was my life's single happiest moment. During those few seconds I was high on the greatest drug of all—life.

At the apartment I listened to Travis Tritt’s It’s a Great Day to be Alive. I wasn’t angry that I developed a second cancer at 19, or that I was poked and prodded every which way, or that I lived in a single hospital room without ESPN for far too long. In City Slickers they discuss  their “best day,” and that may have been mine.

My freedom was short-lived and I was back in the hospital two days later in a demoralizing situation. If I had it my way, not a single person would see me like that. Not Biel, Keibler, a friend, brother or mother. Keibler was present when the tube finally got pulled from my penis, which then didn’t resemble a penis at all. I looked down, looked back up at Keibler and asked, “What the fuck is that?”

She looked down and said, “I don’t know.” Keibler then asked the other nurse if it was common for the tip to look like that. Yes, she responded, and it would go back to normal in a few days. Not even Wilt Chamberlain had as many people see his junk in such a short time as me those few weeks.

My only joy was watching the Arnold Schwarzenegger marathon on TV in honor of Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, which my family saw in the theaters later that summer. In my and my dad’s opinions, it completed Terminator as one of the greatest trilogies. We were angry Arnold traded movies to become Governator. He’s the best.

My remaining time in Minnesota was very pleasant. My brother’s good friend, NoCommonSense, visited and we all saw Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl. I also saw one of my favorite people, Will Smith, in Bad Boys II. I laughed so hard I almost puked.

JD drove me to every eatery. I’d been dreaming about food and had to taste it all, no matter how few bites I could finish.

My mom befriended a Minnesota Twins employee who gave us press box tickets for two games. My name flashed on the jumbo screen, and we all were privileged to meet Harmon Killebrew.
Minnesota Twins Metrodome jumbo screen welcoming Benjamin Rubenstein

Minneapolis is a beautiful city with kind people, clean streets and a modern skyline. My dad walked every day along the Mississippi River enjoying the scenery, though not the angry geese that chased him. They can be mean critters.

As long as everything stays status quo, I only have to return for one more post-transplant checkup this spring. But, I expect to go back some day on my own accord. Gopher country will always hold a special place in my heart.

That goes for the hospital, as well, and all the people who worked to keep me alive. When I returned to Virginia, if I had trouble sleeping I would prop myself up with pillows and visualize lying on the retractable bed in my old hospital room. I normally felt safe and peaceful there. I’d also try to hear the buzzing of the huge HEPA filter in the ceiling. That combination put me right to sleep. I still do the pillow trick, but forgot what the HEPA filter sounded like. I think that’s a good thing.

I was given a 30% chance of surviving. I didn’t endure with superhuman abilities again, but I survived. Maybe that alone means I still have a little Superman in me.

Continue reading "My Cancer Story": So Far Away (Part I of III)


Nina said...

Hi. CHeck out my blog for post featuring a link to your blog. Yours is an amazing story and I want other people to read it.

gary said...

great blog very moving but funny.

100's of articles about cancer and cancer treatments at

larissa said...

thanks for sharing your story so candidly. hope you get published.

- larissa