Sunday, March 28, 2010

Dudes of Cancer: Monsieur March

Lance Armstrong

Ever heard of this guy (joke)? Lance is best known for winning the Tour-de-France—perhaps the most grueling sporting event in the world—seven consecutive times. Many people don’t realize that athleticism is in Lance’s genetic code. His mother was an athlete. Lance began competing as an early teenager, becoming a professional triathlete at age sixteen. On athletic measures such as resting heart rate and aerobic capacity, he posts mindboggling numbers.

Lance has a focus like nobody I’ve ever read about, a small circle of trusted friends, and the desire to control most aspects of his life. It is this drive that pushes him to not only endure huge amounts of pain, but seemingly enjoy it. He is physically and mentally tougher than most humans on the planet.

Lance began his foundation after his testicular cancer diagnosis in the mid 90s. It has become a premiere cancer research and support organization. Because of his giant celebrity status, advocacy, and undying search for more cancer funding, Lance is cancer’s poster boy.
Lance Armstrong kettleball routine

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Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Anybody Else Remember This?

The below used to be an excerpt from my book, way back in the eleventh draft, before it was removed. I haven't a clue what draft my book is currently in; I can't count that high.

Background: unimportant.

Preface: This is not reflective of my political views, but rather the opinion that huge exploding bombs are awe-inspiring.

Thursday, March 20, 2003

...We got home Thursday night, just in time to see the last set of NCAA Tournament games. On Friday the United States dropped countless bombs on Baghdad. “Shock and Awe” was an amazing sight, but it couldn’t have occurred at a worse time. Every 10 minutes Dan Rather would cut into basketball games to talk about the situation and show more coverage in Iraq. I, and every other college basketball fan, wanted to kick his wrinkly ass.

Happy March Madness, kiddies. I'll be in Las Vegas this weekend celebrating Zeke's bachelor party, perhaps making a few bets and watching a few games.

I will never forgive Rather for his egregious crime.

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Friday, March 5, 2010

Out of Context

I listen for the inaudible drip drip drip of the colorless poison as it crawls down the long tube leading to the needle impaled through my chest, and the shrieks of my next door neighbor, a young child, at our pediatric hospital wing. I reach for the silver triangle dangling above my bed—a toy to me—in my dry, small, frigid room. I sniff for the hospital slop that I never eat, and thus can refrain from trying to smell my vomit that would ensue. I smack my lips to taste the metal after heparin is infused rapidly—hopefully not made in China.

But none of it is real, as they are now imaginary remnants.


Autobiographical memories are best retrieved when the environment where the events took place is replicated. I learned this in one of my many psychology classes at UVA and later Northern Virginia Community College. Through the marathon of writing and editing my book, I implemented it in order to recreate my detailed cancer world. With one exception that became among my book’s best writing, I was not able to write passages from my old hospital, and was also too lazy to prepare macaroni and cheese or oatmeal—staples of my former cancer diet. Instead, I played music in hopes of firing up the same brain neurons of those past memories.

I listened to R. Kelly’s “I Wish” and remembered that JD had burnt a CD for me in November 2000 which included the R&B hit. I labeled the CD “Mix 4,” as in my fourth CD since discovering Napster, though JD wondered how I could differentiate the mixed CDs. “I label mine with the date of creation and the first song or two,” he said.

While riding to the hospital with my mom, I always asked if I could play music. “So long as I can stand it,” she would say, and so I inserted Mix 4 and skipped a few songs here and there, including the remix to “I Wish” which uses the n-word 26 times. She preferred the soft rock/pop mix I created specifically for our trips, and my boy band albums that I’m only occasionally embarrassed to have purchased.

I listened to Nelly’s Country Grammar that SuperSoccerStar had introduced me to on our way back from the SAT prep course we attended in August 2000, in between a stop at McDonald’s where he always saved the fries for last. We mostly discussed our girl fantasies, despite us both being too afraid to act on them—his revolving around CC, mine Orange. Both girls are now married.

I popped Nelly into my portable CD player and listened with headphones during uneventful mornings at the hospital when my immune system was annihilated. I could recite most words to “Ride wit Me” and “Luven Me.” I kept my room dark, like the damp and cloudy world outside my window that autumn, and shut my eyes. I mimicked, “Can I make it? Damn right, I be on the next flight/ Payin’ cash, first class, sittin’ next to Vanna White,” thinking, Vanna who?

I listened to the top country songs from 2000-2001, like “The Little Girl,” “My Next Thirty Years,” “But for the Grace of God,” “I’m Already There,” and “One More Day,” remembering the Country Top 40 my dad and I listened to on the way home from the hospital some Sunday mornings, after he took over for my mom on weekends. It wasn’t unlike when he picked up JD, myself, NoCommonSense and NoCommonSense’s sister from Temple after Sunday School when we were younger, always whipping into the parking lot like a maniac with the Star-Spangled Banner playing at high noon on 98.7 WMZQ, and ultimately forgetting to drop off the NoCommonSense siblings—every single week.

The difference is that I had used to make fun of my dad for listening to country music, for being “the only Jew from Brooklyn” to do so. On those hospital rides home when I couldn’t wait to flop on my couch or La-Z-Boy and piss out the stench of saline and mesna, to eat a whole box of pepperoni Pizza Rolls and play six straight games of Madden, I kind of enjoyed Tim McGraw, John Michael Montgomery, and the others.

I listened to Cam’ron—aka Killa Cam—a hard and offensive rapper, and remember discussing the awesomeness of his hit, “What Means the World to You” with Taps in Functions Analytic Geometry during our junior year, taught by Mrs. Weber—aka Web-Dogg. “Wassup baby?” Taps would greet me. “Wassssup baby!” I would reply.

I placed Cam’ron into my portable, while riding home with my mom from weekday checkups that always went way too late, in the darkness of night that was darker than my hospital time with Nelly. I thought about whether Taps learned anything from Web-Dogg that day, or any day for that matter as I always napped in classes because I was permitted to—even encouraged to—since I had cancer. I thought about calling Zeke or HollaAtYoBoy to get the day’s gossip, and would have if the convenience of text messaging was used back then. I didn’t even bother asking my mom if she could stand Killa Cam.

“He belongs in jail,” my dad likes to say of every rapper except Jay-Z since he tried bringing the New Jersey Nets to Brooklyn.

“What about 50 Cent?” JD and I pleaded. “You must like him since he’s also from New York City.”

“I don’t know anything about fifty cents,” my dad replied.

Wikipedia has nothing on Killa Cam being a criminal.

I didn’t neglect my favored modern rock, listening to the now-sellouts known as Good Charlotte, namely The Young and Hopeless. Infinicuralier had burned the album for me before my trip to Minnesota, where I received a stem cell transplant. After the transplant and the brief yet punishing conditioning regimen, I turned up Good Charlotte as I walked on the treadmill in my room. Heart rate 120 before even beginning. Start walking. Heart rate 150. 160. 180. I can’t breathe. Must stop. All in less than five minutes.

Good Charlotte — “The Young and Hopeless”
“And if I make it through today will tomorrow be the same [Me: yes]
Am I just running in place? [Me: well, walking in place on a treadmill]
and if I stumble and I fall
Should I get up and carry on or will it all just be the same” [Me: yes of course, and, still yes].


I’ve always had a strong episodic memory; I can even describe what others were doing, saying, wearing, or eating at events where I was present. But placing myself in the context of those events makes them feel real—no longer simply an image or video, or a “flashbulb” memory as they are often described, but a sensation. A recreation.

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