Saturday, December 31, 2011

Passed Away Resulting from Cancer: Poh Nikbar December

Ed Gein

Bullied as a boy and abused by his mother, Ed Gein developed abnormally. It is sad when a child begins life with such a handicap. It is also sad that he died of cancer.

Though I would never wish cancer on anyone and before your eyes well up for the last time in 2011, note that Ed Gein was the inspiration behind the fictional serial killers Norman Bates from Psycho, Leatherface from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and Buffalo Bill from The Silence of the Lambs. Gein was obsessed with sex, female anatomy, Nazi experiments, necrophilia and cannibalism.

As a suspect for a missing woman, authorities found the following in Gein’s home:
  • Four noses
  • Whole human bones and fragments
  • Nine masks of human skin
  • Bowls made from human skulls
  • Ten female heads with the tops sawn off
  • Human skin covering several chair seats
  • Mary Hogan's head in a paper bag
  • Bernice Worden's head in a burlap sack
  • Nine vulvae in a shoe box
  • A belt made from female human nipples
  • Skulls on his bedposts
  • A pair of lips on a draw string for a window-shade
  • A lampshade made from the skin from a human face

People who do horrific things get cancer, too.

I wrote this blog entry within minutes because I’m headed out for New Year’s and wanted to post the final month of this Cancer Calendar before year’s end. In 2012 stay tuned for a unique Cancer Calendar, updates on Benjamin 2.0 and maybe my 2012 goals, and other worthless ramblings. Have a great New Year, and remember that Milwaukee’s Best ranks #1 as the highest alcohol-per-calorie beer, a critical piece of knowledge.

Texas Chainsaw Massacre serial killer Ed Gein passed away from cancer

Leia Mais…

Friday, December 23, 2011


Sec-Z-Bec and I sometimes revisit our “Top 3 Favorite Things.” The discussion is lighthearted, but I’ve noticed two of my favorites change while one remains: fame, which in this instance is mostly unselfish. My cancer tale inspires people. This electrifies me, and the more famous I am the more people I can touch. Sharing my story has been the greatest benefit of my published book, and one of my most rewarding experiences.

I did not have this foresight while writing my book. The greatest benefit I had hoped for was fame, though not to provide the opportunity to help others or even for wealth, but for lots of girls. Success here, if defined not by quantity but rather quality, is striking: I developed a close friendship with a special girl and never would have without Twice.

Many friends know I can be a free rider, so it won’t be surprising to hear that another great benefit of Twice has been these freebies:

    Catcher, Caught by Sarah Collins HonenbergerNobodies by John Bowe
  • Author John Bowe and I bartered Twice for Nobodies. Bowe’s eye-opening book made me re-think my views on globalization, economics in politics, workers' rights and the value of people in general.
  • Author Sarah Collins Honenberger bought Twice at a signing last year, and then gave me a copy of her book, Catcher, Caught. This excellent novel about a teenage boy with leukemia leads us to consider that there isn't always a right answer when it comes to health, and only after the outcome is decided do we criticize or praise the tough calls of parents or patients.
  • Omega and I bartered Twice for a box of citrus fruit.
  • Hotdog Man and I bartered Twice for pizza.
  • I bartered Twice for drinks with Aaliyah, as an excuse to hang out with her.
  • Homini Emerito by Mango clothing, when I was a model.
  • Lance Armstrong’s signature.
  • A comic book, my first, with a title I can’t remember, sent by the mother of the author. I lent it to my roommate and hope it’s not lost.
  • A Redskins game ticket and autographed ball.
  • A t-shirt and hat from Alexandria Jaycees, after delivering a 30-minute speech at the organization’s meeting.
  • A trophy after delivering a 50-minute presentation at the Toastmasters District 29 Fall Conference at the site of my Bar Mitzvah, the Dulles Hilton.
  • A Relay-for-Life t-shirt and bracelet after speaking to DECA at Battlefield High School.
  • A book party.
  • Joining the CEO of Standard Solar in a suite for a UVA basketball game.
  • Joining the director of USCIS for pizza.
  • Tax-deductible transportation, food and shelter for interviews in Allentown, Charlottesville, Fairfax, and New York City.
  • Tax-deductible transportation for book-delivery house calls.
  • A tax-deductible meal when I got upset for paying too much at a subpar restaurant. Twice was mentioned for future tax auditing purposes. The other three at my table can validate the seven seconds we discussed it.

Leia Mais…

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Hitchhiker

I had just taken a field trip to the Holocaust Memorial Museum in my twelfth grade gifted education class. My mind still back there as I pumped gas on my way home—picturing the mound of dead Jews’ shoes or videos of medical experiments—a stranger approached me. He was a few years older, slim, dressed warm, and staring. “Can I help you?” I said.

“Could you drive me to the shelter?” the alcohol scent was pungent.

“Um, I’m on my way home for dinner.”

“It’s just down by Hoyts Theater.”

“That’s 15 minutes in the opposite direction that I’m headed.”

“Come on, man, I need somewhere to sleep, man.”

“Um, ok.”

I finished pumping and began driving. “'Precciate the ride. Got any money?”

I had never been beaten, robbed, or held at gunpoint, and I considered one or all may happen on behalf of my first hitchhiker. I knew I hadn’t a single bill in my wallet, but pretended to check just so he believed me. “Sorry, I’ve got nothing except some change,” I said, pointing to the middle compartment full of coins.

He took everything except the pennies, or about $10. “'Precciate it.”

He talked more nonsense, I nodded and made agreeable sounds. When I neared Hoyts Theater I said, “Where is the shelter exactly?”

“There’s a Shell station up here, just drop me off there.” I abided without inquiring whether the shelter was located in the malt liquor fridge at Shell.

Ten dollars poorer, thirty minutes late for dinner, and emotions ranging from terror to relief capping an already powerful day, at least I was one companion richer.

One week later Vodka/Benadryl and I visited Taco Bell after school. My jaw dropped upon sight of my new companion standing outside the restaurant.

“Hey, it’s you again, thanks for the ride. Got any money? Can you give me a ride to the shelter?”

I had plenty of cash this time. I thought back to the previous week, fusing this hitchhiker taking advantage of me and the Holocaust into one recollection. “Sorry, but we’re going to eat here, and I don’t have money. Later.”

Never again!

Leia Mais…

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Bolt Up

T2theZ and I visited San Diego three months ago. I had had a voucher for a free round-trip ticket to anywhere in the CONUS, thanks to an overbooked flight home from Zeke’s Vegas bachelor party. And T2theZ is the king of cheap travel and collecting United airline miles. So we chose “America’s Finest City,” with Cleveland the runner-up.

Rowdy fans at San Diego Chargers game
Arm sleeve tattoos are common here
We stayed with T2theZ’s friend in Pacific Beach (P.B.). The doors were never locked, plants grew uncontrolled, and her male roommate was rarely fully-clothed. San Diegans work, worry and hurry less, dress in unique style, and eat burritos for breakfast. The atmosphere in the west coast is rejuvenating, beyond the abundant sunshine.

That includes people’s friendliness and widespread smiles. My three simple requirements for a trip are consuming good food, good beer, and meeting good people. At a backyard bar-b-q I chatted with a pretty blond. “I visited DC once. There was too much cursing!” she said.

I laughed, remembering Tupac’s “Hit ‘Em Up” when he says “f***” 28 times just in the final verse. I think she was referring to her people generally being laid back, as she was.

“You don’t need to say ‘F this’ all the time. It’s more effective when you say it on occasion,” she said.

“I actually agree,” I said. “When I began writing I cursed all the time. My book’s first draft had 'f***' 330 times and ‘motherf***er’ 20. It published with just one ‘motherf***er’ which makes that single instance more valuable.”

She expressed interest in my book and admiration for how I humorize my adversity. I found it breezy to discuss that with her, not uncomfortable as it used to be, and for the purpose of this story I will credit San Diego instead of my increased maturity and confidence.

Speaking of working less, you really want to see the San Diego FOX 5 morning newscasters and their “Dance Party Friday.” Yes, this really is the news.

San Diego is home to dozens of breweries. T2theZ and I must own the record by visiting four in a single day, touring one of them. I have enjoyed learning more about beer (and coffee) the past few months, though I must admit to enjoying Ballast Point’s berry beer the best. Fruity things and I are inseparable.
Stone Brewery in San Diego
Stone Brewing Company's amazing brewery

We went to a Padres game, located in Petco Park downtown.
Petco Park where the San Diego Padres play baseball
Superb open-air, sandstone stadium
We hadn’t planned on going to the Padres game, which is why I hadn’t inquired about free tickets. But I did just that for the Chargers, San Diego's football team. On our Minnesota road trip T2theZ and I had been moderately successful scoring free tickets when I mentioned we were celebrating my five-year cancer-free anniversary. This San Diego trip was one week after my ten-year cancer-free anniversary, so once again I pulled the cancer card. The Chargers PR person wanted to validate my cancerness. “I apologize for having to ask this, but can you provide a doctor’s note confirming your cancer? We sometimes hear fabricated stories.”

“Probably not, but if you visit you’ll see a picture of my hipless skeleton.”

The next day he called me. “I saw your book, and I really don’t think you’d put in that much effort if you made it up. We’re good.” Our free tickets were in the lower bowl about 15 rows up, on the goal line. Props to the Chargers organization for their generosity.
San Diego Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium

Outrageous pizza prices at Oggi's in Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego
Way too sober to purchase a $50 pizza at the Chargers game

Before the game we searched for tailgaters to join. Our peace offering was two six packs. On our first attempt the tailgaters said we could hang out with them for $20 each. These were not the friendly San Diegans we were used to. Our second attempt ended in failure, too. Don’t people want our company, or at least our beer? Finally, we found cool people who allowed us to join them for free.

The thought of morning football seemed horrible until I experienced it: wake up and games are already on, no waiting around! And at the tailgate, at noon, we were watching the end of the early set of games. I could get used to that.

Man v. Food tries Broken Yolk Iron Man Special at Broken Yolk Cafe, San Diego
Before heading to the Chargers game we ate breakfast at Broken Yolk Café, which was featured in Man v. Food. If not for the game I would’ve ordered the Broken Yolk Iron Man Special: a dozen-egg omelet served on a 15-inch pizza pan. Next time I’ll order it, and make sure defibrillators are handy for when my heart stops.

P.B. has happening nightlife, as seen in Real World: San Diego. People were also hitting the sauce hard at the bar-b-q we attended. Late into that party someone brought out a piñata, and climbed on the roof to knot a rope to hang it from. He then jumped down, blindfolded himself, and grabbed an ax to bust it open. When the candy exploded of course I was the first to gather some. But when the ax was swung I got the fuck out of the way. Do you see what I did right there?

Leia Mais…

Monday, December 12, 2011

Subway: Colon Fresh

Last Monday I eat half of a three-day-old buffalo chicken Subway sandwich. Immediately I feel nauseous. My body has trained itself to stave off vomit, despite my desire to get it over with, so for three hours I sit in agony at my desk. I’ve vomited in many different places, but never at work: it is time to pull the trigger.

I enter a single-stall bathroom: occupied. Another: occupied. I walk upstairs to the bigger facility: empty. I enter the end stall, place a small tree-worth of paper towels on the ground and around the bowl, and drop to my knees. Just before I go for the finger, someone walks in to get his own relief. I leave and return later.

Empty now, I go for it. Finger in mouth, gag reflex, come on puke! It doesn’t work, an outcome I haven’t experienced before. This Subway is stubborn.

I go home early and sit in my La-Z-Boy motionless, watching Monday Night Football coverage for hours. Finally as I watch Blaine Gabbert cause similar nausea for Jaguars fans, it comes rapidly. I have never missed a toilet, bucket or Mother Nature, and am not about to let Subway top chemo on that front. I shuffle to the bathroom, lift the seat and unload the Subway that has clogged my stomach for the last ten hours. Ah, relief.

I could hardly eat for a day, and then began re-introducing my body to raw fruits and vegetables, the bulk of my normal diet. I don’t think my feed is meant for human intestines: years ago, when I began my quasi-paleo diet, my insides seethed until, I’m guessing, proper intestinal bacteria accumulated. Subway expelled that bacteria, leaving me with daily tummy discomfort until the bugs return in full.

Subway should drop Jared and target its marketing toward the colonoscopy prep industry. Subway: Eat Food Poisoning-Bacteria and get Colon Fresh for Probe! Jared slimmed because of salmonella, not submarines.

Subway's Jared loses hundreds of pounds

Leia Mais…

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Passed Away Resulting from Cancer: Poh Nikbar November

Peter Jennings

My parents have always watched news during dinner. National news anchors rarely change, and when they do—or when the ratings leader gets overtaken—the blogosphere erupts as if Kim Kardashian’s seventh cousin twice removed was spotted on the street. My parents are loyal, following just four anchors throughout my life: Diane Sawyer; Charles Gibson; Bob Schieffer, an old-timer who we thought rocked; and Peter Jennings.

Jennings hosted ABC’s World News Tonight for 22 years, a feat only trumped by his 34-letter name: Peter Charles Archibald Ewart Jennings. In case "Archibald” doesn’t do it for you, Jennings dominated nightly news, winning 16 Emmy’s and 2 Peabody Awards. He also earned Canada’s highest civilian honor, along with Sue Johanson, host of Sunday Night Sex Show. A true national prize.

Jennings didn’t escape without criticism: Toby Keith and Rush Limbaugh slammed him real good. Additionally, an interesting study demonstrated how Jennings’ expressions were politically-biased, which likely influenced voters. He made up for it by covering 9/11 for 17 consecutive hours, and apparently 23 consecutive for the millennium news special in 1999. I became aware of that study when I Googled “Peter Jennings Syracuse University,” because I had assumed that all top-notch broadcasters graduated from there. He apparently never graduated college and even failed 10th grade. He’s a true American Canadian success story.

In April 2005, Jennings informed viewers that he was diagnosed with lung cancer and would begin chemotherapy. He admitted to smoking until his late 40s, and again during 9/11, an event that had a profound impact on him. His heir, Charles Gibson, then closed each broadcast with the phrase, “for Peter Jennings and all of us at ABC News.” Months later Charles informed viewers that Peter Jennings passed away from lung cancer.

I grew up with Jennings, and think very highly of him. Now I rarely watch news and absorb my daily intake by scrolling Google News headlines ten minutes each morning (and reading The Economist). Efficiency guru Tim Ferriss, who I probably mimic to the point of crossing the legal line, would say even that is too much, since world unawareness acts as a great conversation-starer. I can survive without Syracuse-alumni American broadcasters telling me what's important, but sorry Tim, I can't go without Google telling me what the Kardashians are up to.
Peter Jennings passed away from lung cancer

Leia Mais…

Monday, November 28, 2011

Holiday Donations

While attending the University of Virginia I spotted an ad for a cat allergy study. I had developed an allergy to felines and most everything else after my stem cell transplant, presumably from my anonymous donor. I participated in the study by donating blood for $85. It was the second easiest money-making opportunity of my life, behind betting Omega that UVA would beat William & Mary in football three months ago.

I expected to participate in the follow-up study for additional money, but my allergies were too robust, making my blood unuseful.

That study leads me to wonder what other bodily fluids I can donate for cash. I’ve received so many drugs, and had so many diseases, that surely labs everywhere want to study me. Here are the top five studies I’m keeping an eye out for:

  1. Transgender DNA: It’s Not a Choice! My anonymous umbilical cord stem cell donor was female. So not only has my blood type changed, but the DNA of my stem cells now have the same sex chromosome (XX). Let me be clear that this affects me in no way, except by clearing the way for me to become a serial killer so long as I frame a woman.
  2. Cancer Treatment Leads to X-Men Mutations. There aren't too many people who have endured more cancer treatment than me. The question is whether I’ve received enough treatment to reach the mutation threshold, or if I’m just shy. Also, what kind of mutation are we talking about? X-ray vision would be nice; the ability to read women's minds even better. Then again, maybe not.
  3. Urinalysis: Four Daily Liters Sprays Fountain of Youth. I drink a gallon of water a day. I have yet to see evidence that excessive water is healthy. But my transgender mutation premonition is that water cleans all body systems and is the cure-all. If this study proves that water also keeps me youthful, then I’ll do whatever it takes to hit that gallon mark, and I mean taking Bear Grylls’ pee-drinking to a whole new level.
  4. Chemo-Saturated Organs a Jewel for Alien Biopsies. How much are these extra-terrestrials willing to pay, in what currency, and are there any long-term effects of the organ biopsies? Oh, and which organs are we talking about? All organs are on the table except the brain and testes…well, how much are they paying again?
  5. Post-Transplant Semen Effective on Emu, Not Human, Eggs. Let me be clear that I will have no part in playing God by creating species hybrids…well, how much are they willing to pay again?
Emu world's ugliest animal

Leia Mais…

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

My Redskins Photo Shoot

I was invited to accompany patients from Children’s National Medical Center to the Redskins game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last December 12. It was cold and rainy, but fortunately when you are in the elements with cancer patients, the hospital staff tends to bring extra ponchos, gloves, blankets, and sneaked-in water and snacks.

The Skins dominated the first half with Ryan Torain rushing for 158 yards, though Gano missed two field goals of 34 and 24 yards. But, they’re the Redskins, and allowed Tampa to take the lead with under four minutes left.

We left our seats in the fourth quarter and caught the end of the game on a TV inside the stadium. In a bizarre event, the scoreboard showed the incorrect down. Our group huddled together wondering if the game was over, confused, when McNabb threw possibly his only non-bounce pass of the game to Santana Moss for a touchdown with seconds left. The Redskins were down by one point.

“They should try a two-point conversion because Gano may miss the extra point," I said.

Coach Shanahan did not hear me. The snap sailed over the holder’s head and they lost by one point.

Fortunately when you are in the presence of cancer patients, you get to meet the players: all of them bar Santana and McNabb. After one of the worst losses of their careers on a dreary late fall evening. But only pediatric cancer patients could meet the angry players.

I’m only slightly embarrassed with my pretension to be a decade younger with a life-threatening disease. I'm not at all embarrassed that I snagged the end seat, making this my own personal Redskins photo shoot.

Washington Redskins' Kedric Golston signing autographs at FedEx Field
Kedric Golston is beatable in a cagefight
Washington Redskins' London Fletcher signing autographs at FedEx Field
London Fletcher wears a scarf?
Washington Redskins' Graham Gano signing autographs at FedEx Field
"How's it going?" I said to Gano. "I've been better," he said. My  feelings toward him went from hatred to pity.
Washington Redskins' Chris Cooley signing autographs at FedEx Field
Chris Cooley was thrilled to meet us Cancer People
Washington Redskins' DeAngelo Hall signing autographs at FedEx Field
"Your former college Virginia Tech will get crushed by Stanford in the Orange Bowl," I should have told DeAngelo Hall
Washington Redskins signed football
Adding this to my Wall of Fame

Leia Mais…

Friday, November 18, 2011


Grow your mustache for Movember"I heard November is when guys grow mustaches for prostate cancer awareness," I said to JD last month. "I think it's called "Movember."

"That doesn't make sense," he said. "It seems like it would be called 'Stachevember' or 'Nobeardvember."

"Good point. I must've heard wrong."

Apparently not: Movember: an event started by Australian men to raise awareness for men's health issues via the growth of mustaches which inevitably lead to conversation about the origin and purpose of said mustaches.

Here are the rules:

  1. Once registered at each mo bro must begin the 1st of Movember with a clean shaven face.
  2. For the entire month of Movember each mo bro must grow and groom a moustache.
  3. There is to be no joining of the mo to your side burns. (That’s considered a beard.)
  4. There is to be no joining of the handlebars to your chin. (That’s considered a goatee.)
  5. Each mo bro must conduct himself like a true country gentleman.
Except for unfortunate bros with alopecia areata and maybe burn victims, I have a most atypical sprout resulting from total body irradiation, targeted radiation, lots of chemo and general cancerness. (For a challenge, use your imagination; for a full understanding, I reveal in my book.) However, I do believe I could grow a sick mobrostache. Maybe next year, especially if the YouTube video "Have Sex With a Guy With a Mustache Day*" catches fire.

My mo bro numero uno, LadyKiller, hopes it doesn't take a year for that fire to begin. LadyKiller had earned that nickname as a freshman in high school when he garnered the infatuation of the senior class president. His gorgeous mo bro stache may push women (and men) from infatuation to obsession. LadyKiller could use some donations* for his efforts on his mo bro space here. Remember, funds raised support awareness, education, survivorship and research.

Leia Mais…

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

I Am a Cancer Survivor (Part IV of IV)

Read these first:
I Am a Cancer Survivor (Part I of IV)
I Am a Cancer Survivor (Part II of IV)
I Am a Cancer Survivor (Part III of IV)

“Don’t talk about death, I got too much life to live” – Ice Cube & Krayzie Bone, "Until We Rich"

In our final counseling session, Shari and I speak more about the future than the past: jobs, girls, growing up. “I don’t want to see you in a suckass job with no relationship,” she says.

We say goodbye, hug each other, and I leave. It is a warm, cloudy, spring afternoon when I step outside. The sky is gray, the leaves are green, and oriole birds are out in search of food and mates. I look across Emmet Street at the old, brown brick building, Newcomb Hall, which looks like all the other old buildings at UVA. Students are walking around campus, studying under the trees, at one with nature, just as Thomas Jefferson would have liked. I am reminded of the day I stepped out of the hospital in Minnesota and saw my dad standing near his beloved minivan, eager to sweep me away to safety.

In Phase I of my life, my dreams knew no bounds. I had ambitions of running for the Redskins, costarring a dark comedy opposite Mila Kunis, and being an engineer. In Phase II, the cancers, I had a single focus. Life was simple and purposeful. I miss those moments, like when I would find that temporary patch of health in the midst of total chaos. I miss time being frozen, unchanged until my cancer status changed. In some sick way, I miss the suffering. What if the climax of my life ended when my first cancer ended?

Now that I am well, the possibilities are endless again. I enter my bathroom, close the door, and flip on the light. I approach the mirror. I stare into the blackness of my eyes, the same eyes of Pre-Cancer Ben whose picture I carry in my wallet. I finally see myself in the mirror.

My eyes moisten, twinkle in the mirror and collect salty fluid. I think of how much I liked being a boy with a head full of dreams. There is no shaking, moaning, head jerking or snot flow. I am not convulsing and staring at the ceiling trying to fight it. I am in control. I am not afraid.

My right eye accumulates faster than my left one. My vision is blurring, and then I feel it—a single tear drop streams down my cheek, leaving a watery trail: proof. Proof that the code that governed my life—the same one that helped me cheat death and simultaneously stymied my growth—could be bent or broken. I’ve gotten this far and there is no telling where I will head next.

Much more of my journey can be found in my memoir, Twice

Leia Mais…

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

I Am a Cancer Survivor (Part III of IV)

Read these first:
I Am a Cancer Survivor (Part I of IV)
I Am a Cancer Survivor (Part II of IV)

“Once upon a time I could take anything” – Rise Against, "This is Letting Go"

In my final year at the University of Virginia I took Problems of Personal Adjustment, a supposed gut class. I had to get counseling for my class project—that’s how I justified it. Otherwise I’d be admitting that I was a pussy, one of those people who can’t deal with cancer. Shari—a petite, dirty blond mother of two young girls—was my counselor. Before seeing her I would’ve rather been forced to sit through a Barbara Streisand concert than spend one second with a counselor.

Shari thinks I went numb. “Dealing with cancer can be so overwhelming that we turn off emotions until we get through it. But it doesn’t seem to be working anymore, does it?”

Shari challenged me with questions, and I was learning more of me that I didn’t know was there. Even when my class requirement was met, I kept coming.

“If you were forced to send your mother a message, what would it say?” she asked.

“She’ll figure it out when the book comes out,” I said.

Shari didn’t let me off the hook, so I thought about it more. “I guess I’d want to thank her.”

That was one of the first times I considered the vastness of my parents’ sacrifices. But Shari wasn’t satisfied and had me ponder the question for our next weekly session. Then, I said, “If I had to tell my mom one thing, then I would want to say that I’m okay. She worries about me all the time and I just wish she knew that I’m alright—always have been and always will be.”

Shari made me think about sadness. She said that by not experiencing sadness, I’m depriving myself of a part of life. “I sometimes experience sadness,” I pleaded, before realizing she was referring to crying. Ever since I told Shari I hadn’t cried since September 2000, she was both fascinated and concerned. So, she pushed me until I understood my aversion.

The day after I had learned of my tumor, I wanted to cry. I weighed the extent of my cry, and chose to sob. My body shook, moans escaped, my head jerked around, and snot poured out of my nose. I quickly felt awkward, so I brought myself under control and vowed to never cry again.

That had been one of my defining moments—when I thought I was somehow special. Not just unique in my ability to deal with cancer, but as if there was something in me nobody else on Earth had. After that cry, Superman was born.

Shari asked to see the photo of me that I carried in my wallet. The photo had been taken right before I began treatment, a symbol of who I used to be, who I could’ve continued being if it wasn’t for that uncontrolled group of malignant cells. That 16-year-old Benjamin was free to chase down balls on the tennis court, and free to pace his way to a five-year bachelor’s degree like his brother, and free to run the girls wild with his curly locks. I loved that kid. He had energy and humor, hope and health.

“This was when you were 16?” Shari said, grinning at my youthful appearance. “Do you look at it often?”

“No,” I said, grabbing the picture from her. But before I lodged it back in my wallet, I stared at the teenage boy looking back at me. “God, I miss playing football. My friend, NoCommonSense, and I used to call ourselves the Bash Brothers. We had this one play where, in the huddle, I’d say ‘The Play?’ and he’d just nod his head. When I snapped the ball he’d run a fly route, I’d pump fake, then throw up a bomb for a touchdown.”

Boom! Right then I understood that I was no longer 16 years old and never would be again. My days of just being a kid, as well as fighting cancer, were long gone. My hip, hair, innocence and adolescence were all stolen from me. In a sense, that 16-year-old boy died.

“I bet you’d do just about anything to be 16 again, wouldn’t you?”

Something was happening. I felt funny. My voice softened. My eyes glistened and I breathed deeply. I was losing control. “Just let go,” Shari said.

I was terrified to let go—as scared as I’d ever been. “I can’t,” I managed to say. “This isn’t me. I don’t let things get to me like everyone else. I’m better than those people.”

“You can cry and still be strong. It isn’t one or the other. At the same time you can be happy that you’re alive and angry about what happened to you.”

My body felt helpless. But I wouldn’t succumb, fighting my hardest to hold the tears back. Does crying make me less of a human being? If Pre-Cancer Ben saw me cry would he be ashamed of me? What if God really did endow me with some kind of unique gift? Will I throw that away if I cry?

“It’s okay, I’m right here,” Shari said. “Just let go.”

My stomach ached. I was sweating. I wanted to break everything in the room, yet collapse at the same time. My body wanted to let go, but I resisted. Then, a line from the movie Munich crossed my mind: “We are supposed to be righteous. That's a beautiful thing. And we're losing it. If I lose that, that's everything. That's my soul.”

If I cry, will I lose part of my soul and never get it back?

I gained control and saved my tears for another day.

Keep reading: I Am a Cancer Survivor (Part IV of IV)

Leia Mais…

Monday, November 7, 2011

I Am a Cancer Survivor (Part II of IV)

Read this first: I Am a Cancer Survivor (Part I of IV)

“I'll show you mine if you show me yours first
Let's compare scars, I'll tell you whose is worse” – Rise Against, "Swing Life Away"

There used to be a correct answer for my hip—perform my exercises and push through the pain. Knowing that I would never play tackle football again didn’t mean I couldn’t try. Things changed years ago, when exercise was no longer the answer, and could have been detrimental. There is no way of knowing how much is too much or not enough.

I strive for a healthy lifestyle. I choose poultry and fresh fruit over beef and processed snacks. I exercise like a maniac and am well-rested. I regularly research healthier ways to live.

I also gravitate toward a Gus Burger—a greasy hamburger topped with a fried egg—and a whole box of Thin Mint cookies for dessert. I want to stay up drinking myself stupid every Friday and Saturday night. My desire for normalcy causes me to question my new lifestyle. My desire to stay healthy and cancer-free causes me to wonder if normal behavior is harmful.

These aren’t algebra problems. They don’t have correct answers. If I knew hours of demanding hip exercises were beneficial, then I’d perform them. But I don’t know. And I don’t know how to balance a “normal” life with a healthy one.

How about my parents’ balance? I doubt they have truly been angry at me since before it all started. When I was still in college, they phoned me twice a week instead of once. When I said, “But you never called JD twice a week,” they said, “What’s wrong, you don’t want to talk to us?”

When I shoveled snow, my dad would say, “No, you stay inside. You don’t need to be doing that.” Of course I would shovel faster and harder.

I’m not ungrateful for my parents’ sacrifices: I could write a book on them, but I'll stick with two examples. For 8-12 days following each cycle of chemotherapy, I received an injection to boost my white blood cells. I injected myself in my minimal belly fat, but hated it: my pain threshold is enormous, but I have trouble inflicting it on myself. My mom refused to administer my shot because she was afraid she’d hurt me, so my dad was left with the responsibility. My parents' nurse-friend visited each night and delivered the shot in the back of my arm, teaching my dad how. Eventually, he was ready to try on his own. He pushed the needle too far and it entered my triceps. It stung and I screamed at him, "That hurt like shit! What's wrong with you, why can't you just get it right?" He called his nurse-friend to re-teach him, again and again. Soon my dad became an expert and even called himself "Dr. Shots."

My mom spent the most time caring for me. On nearly every trip to the hospital, through the countless drips of poison, the ferocious hurls, the days I could hardly walk or talk, the intensely painful rehab sessions, the lonely days and nights—she was there. At times I was like an infant, unable to do most everything on my own. I never paid attention to her feelings or desires. Her career, friends, health, and hobbies took a backseat to me. And what did I give back to her? Nothing. What do I think she wanted from me? Nothing.

Keep reading: I Am a Cancer Survivor (Part III of IV)

Leia Mais…

Sunday, November 6, 2011

I Am a Cancer Survivor (Part I of IV)

Continued from “My Cancer Story": So Far Away (Part III of III)
Read "My Cancer Story" from the beginning: The Golden Age (Part I of III)

“The best thing in life is health” – Ice Cube & Krayzie Bone, "Until We Rich"

My crystal ball displays someone familiar—it’s Benjamin Rubenstein, but he’s different. I see him as a junior in high school with a huge He-Bro out on the tennis court. He’s wearing a headband to keep his long, corkscrew curls out of his eyes. Does he know how ridiculous he looks? He’s playing Froddy, who broke another racket. Yep, Ben just secured the number two spot on the varsity tennis team.

Ben is talking to Mr. Spunkmeyer now, requesting a college letter of recommendation. Ben wants to follow his big brother and attend Virginia Tech. His mom pushes him toward the University of Virginia, but his grades are subpar. In the meantime, he’s enjoying high school and doesn’t want to leave. He continues playing neighborhood football after school each day, and still has delusions that he will be a Washington Redskin.

That kid loves his university. He joined his brother’s fraternity and dragged Zeke with him. Like most Hokies, Ben is on the five-year plan and will finish college with a degree in engineering. I wonder if he even realizes how blessed he is, how unbelievably close he was to getting struck with cancer not once, but twice…

My emotions are at war when I focus on my cancer experiences. I’m happy I’m no longer in the hospital. Many of the most draining, boring, and worst days of my life occurred there. But those days have vanished.

I also feel sad when comparing my past and present. I lived with a sense of purpose that is unmatched nowadays. Cancer has given me a new way to view the world, but it’ll never be the same as when I was 16 or 19 years old. Although I assured myself I wouldn't take anything for granted, that’s impossible now that I’m healthy.

While on spring break vacation in Mexico years ago, I attempted something new and frightening—tell my new female friend about my cancers and how they affected me. I wanted to drop my guard, desperately, but I didn’t know how.

When I finally shared with her, I expected to feel invigorated and refreshed, but I didn’t. So, I told a pretty girl that I survived cancer twice, that I endured 15½ months of intense physical therapy in order to walk again, that I stayed in a single hospital room for 65 consecutive days. What did I really accomplish? Just one more person who saw me as the Sick Kid.

The next day when we passed at the pool, I said hello. I wondered how much of our conversation she remembered from the previous night. I wondered how many of her friends she told my story. I wondered if she saw me differently. Did she pity me? If she was interested in me before, did I ruin that by showing her my true self? Did your past define you, and if so, was that my true self? How can some cancer survivors tell everyone while I struggle to tell one? How can I be so good at surviving cancer, yet so bad at discussing it?

My past has caught up with me, and I’m beginning to embrace it. Hopefully I can use my past experiences to live a fuller life in the future.

Though as much as some things change like my willingness to divulge my story, others stay the same. Like when I noticed a strange marking on my rib cage which resembled a bug. I thought an insect burrowed through my skin like in The Mummy and would cause a killer infection. My dad looked at the bug imprint and said, “Didn’t you get a skin biopsy there? It looks like stitch marks.”

Or the time I thought I might’ve had a brain tumor because I felt strange after minor ear surgery. I only felt weird because I had been taking Percocet.

Or the time I lost a memory bet with Bubble and was convinced the radiation caused brain damage, simply because I’ve always had a good episodic memory.

And while on that same spring break in Mexico, I forgot to spread sunscreen on my left shin. The next day it blistered. I remembered reading that one bad sunburn doubles your chances of developing malignant melanoma, the most dangerous type of skin cancer.

I could already foresee a red spot on my shin 15 years later. It’s expanding at a rapid pace, and I can't slow it down. Eventually it spreads and kills me, all because I forgot to put sunscreen on one small part of my body on one day in Mexico.

More things stay the same. I still can’t listen to country music without remembering riding home in my dad’s minivan after being discharged from the hospital, each song telling a story, a life lesson.

I can’t listen to or watch Rocky without remembering why I kept the soundtrack with me at all times, just in case, how my love for the character will never cease, how “his whole life was a million-to-one shot,” and if he could do it, I could do it, if Rocky could get back up then so could I.

I can't take a drive with the windows down and the stereo on without remembering that first summer of driving freedom at sixteen years old, with my arm hanging out and blowing with the wind, how my friends and I didn't need alcohol or an event to have loads of fun, how just cruising was enough, how that age held such power and promise, how I held such power and promise, how Pre-Cancer Ben was such a quiet and innocent kid who never hurt anybody and didn't deserve to get cancer.

Keep reading: I Am a Cancer Survivor (Part II of IV)

Leia Mais…

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Special Blog Story Sunday, Nov 6, at 7:30 pm ET

Sarah Palin reminds you to visit this blog next Sunday, November 6, 2011, at 7:30 pm ET to read Part I of the "My Cancer Story" finale. "My Cancer Story" can be found by scrolling down the right side of this blog a little ways, or click here to read from the beginning.

If you want to receive this powerful story automatically and without having to think—e.g. Palin-style if she were literate—then subscribe easily and for free to the RSS feed or by email.

Part II will be posted one day later, on Monday, November 7, at 7:30 pm ET, and so on until "My Cancer Story" culminates in its Palincredible conclusion.

See you next week. My StatCounter better show some Russian visitors.

Sarah Palin winking

Leia Mais…

Passed Away Resulting from Cancer: Poh Nikbar October

“What are they gonna say about him? What are they gonna say? That he was a kind man? That he was a wise man? That he had plans, man? That he had wisdom? Bullshit, man!” – Dennis Hopper, Apocalypse Now

Dennis Hopper

Man, I was shocked to hear the rumor that Dennis Hopper was stoned while filming Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now, which is widely considered a top-50 film of all time. Man, he seemed so normal, man, with his long hair and wackjob rants, not to mention the film's trippy cinematography and plot.

Hopper’s acting career consisted of over 200 movies including the best sports film, Hoosiers, in which he was nominated for an Academy Award for playing a passionate drunk. He excelled as a villain. He was the bad guy in 24 (never cross Jack Bauer, man) and Speed, opposite the God of Acting Keanu Reeves and also one of my favorite movies. Of all his movies including Apocalypse and Easy Rider—also considered in the top 100—it is Speed that Hopper is best known for according to Speed has taught me useful life knowledge. Always shoot the hostage. Cheap gold watches make for great bombs. And poor people are crazy but, man, Hopper is just eccentric.

Hopper divorced five times, including a real nasty one with his final wife soon before his death. In 2009 Hopper was diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer. The cancer reportedly spread to his bones, and he was considered terminal and unable to undergo chemo. Hopper passed away in his home on May 29, 2010, at age 74. Damn, man.
Dennis Hopper from Apocalypse Now

Leia Mais…

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Official Book Trailer for "Twice" by Benjamin Rubenstein

I'm pleased to announce the release of the official trailer for my book, Twice: How I Became a Cancer-Slaying Super Man Before I Turned 21. It can also be seen on my YouTube channel,

Leia Mais…

Sunday, October 16, 2011

The Baby Experiment

I visited my college friend, Barfman, who lives in Annapolis and works at The United States Naval Academy.

United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, MD
The dormitory looks like mine at UVA, only the opposite
United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, MD

Barfman has a seven-month-old little human, a.k.a. baby boy. I enjoyed spending time with this curious little human. He is intrigued by the world around him, likes to smile, make gibberish sounds, and lick my feet.
Seven-month-old baby plays with dad's leg

Barfman has significant power over how this little human will turn out, and I would like to experiment with it. If we (what, I don't have any say?) decide he should be outgoing, then we let him roam around and hope he doesn't get lost or eaten. If we want him to be a cagefighter then we let him play with toys until he inevitably injures himself, and then reward that behavior with puréed squash and luxurious diapers. This could be so much fun.

When I mentioned how cool it was that he has so much control over his little human, Barfman agreed but added, "In many ways he controls my life."

Leia Mais…

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Most Interesting Organ in the World

Following my bone marrow transplant in 2003, my body went haywire. For example, the orifice meant to expel solid waste went in favor of a viscosity close to water, and the orifice meant to expel liquid decided to shoot blood clots instead.

My liver stopped working properly, and I was left with gallstones and sludge in my gallbladder. The gallbladder is a small organ near the liver that stores bile to help break down fatty foods. The bile originally comes from the liver. Unless you eat fried chicken tenders every day, it is not critical and can usually be removed without causing problems.

Gallstones are harmless unless one gets lodged and causes inflammation. Beyond the possibility that this leads to potentially life-threatening emergencies, it is also one of my top-ten all-time pains. Remembering what I said before about where I excreted solid objects will give you an idea of the level of pain.

My first gallbladder attack occurred when I was still recovering from my transplant. At first I thought my liver was exploding. Then the pain radiated across my entire back and pulsed through me. I took 10 milligrams of oxycodone and showed my gallbladder who has the real stones.

Since I could hardly keep food down, of course fatty, calorie-packed foods were the ones I chose. But fatty foods are also what disrupts gallstones. And now I needed a high-calorie, low-fat diet, but I was unable to eat large quantities, which, by my calculations, was impossible. Faced with the prospect of laparoscopic surgery, I listened as my dad said, “You should get your gallbladder removed. While you’re asleep, they should also take out your appendix and spleen, because you don’t need those things.”

“Dad, your spleen is kind of important.”

“Are you sure?”

“I think so.”

“Then they’ll just take your appendix, that’s all. I kind of want my gallbladder out. I don’t use it,” he explained.

Since the stones and sludge never completely disappear, my gallbladder removal is inevitable. Removal of my appendix and spleen, however, is not.

I held off on surgery, mostly because I had the insurance of oxycodone at my disposal. My gallstone attacks also continued, mostly because I was also overly fond of fried chicken tenders. When I completely recovered from my transplant, my gallbladder calmed down and I went four years before my next attack.

I was working at a bank—my first job out of college. I had eaten a plate (or two or three) of bar-b-que at the holiday party a couple hours earlier. I thought I had indigestion so I took Zantac and Tums. When those were ineffective, I knew it was my gallbladder. Already having stepped away from the office for an hour, I told my supervisor I wasn’t feeling well and left. She probably assumed I had been in the bathroom all that time and was happy to see me take my presumed digestion problems home.

No oxycodone this time, though, so I found extra-strength, fast-acting Tylenol at Rite Aid. I could barely breath because of the pain, but I still had the presence of mind to get the cheap generic pills. Only a slow old woman was in line ahead of me. My stream of thoughts were foul and not because I have a granny fetish. Eventually I paid, swallowed my pills, and a couple hours later could at least breath normally.

I consulted a general surgeon who, again, suggested I get the organ removed. Though I read rare horror stories from people who had theirs removed, it is a simple procedure, and most people function fine without their gallbladders. But my gallbladder and I have been through a lot together, and I’ll be damned if I’m going to let go of it by way of minimally-invasive surgery. I’m holding out until it has to be removed by cutting me open. I need to add to my 25+ inches of medical scarring. Bring back the fried chicken tenders.

Leia Mais…

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Birthright Israel: We’re Coming Back (Part IV of ?)

Read these first:
Birthright Israel: We’re Coming Back (Part I of ?)
Birthright Israel: We’re Coming Back (Part II of ?)
Birthright Israel: We're Coming Back (Part III of ?)

At the Golan Heights overlooking Syria on Birthright Israel
At the Golan Heights overlooking Syria
I learned how Israel gained control of the Golan Heights, and how Syria uses a captured Israeli soldier named Gilad Shalit to negotiate back ownership. Israel considers this an option*. Our tour guide tried withholding bias throughout the trip, but here he couldn’t abstain: Syria may agree to peace, but once Israel relinquishes the Golan Heights then Syria would require something else for real peace. The cycle could continue.
* other aspects of negotiation, and other potential negotiations, not named here

Israel's Gilad Shalit
I learned the value of a life. The parents of Gilad Shalit host strangers in their home—more like a living memorial—to pray for the safe return of their kidnapped son. He has been gone for over 1,900 days and counting. And sadly, Israel’s enemies use this against it, knowing that Israel will give up the world to get their soldiers back. Gilad is twenty-five years old.

I learned how nearly all high school graduates enter service—the men for three years and women for two. They talk about their military background the way Americans disclose their University or degree to display status and success.

I learned how proud the soldiers felt to be part of our Birthright group. Whereas I applied for the trip because it was free and promised to be an awesome party, the Israelis felt honored to be selected. At Mount Herzl, each one received a Taglit pin and sincerely thanked us for letting them be a part of our experience.

Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum
Artwork at Museum in memory of the death march from Dachau
The Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum was redone since my Israel trip in 2000. It is interactive and spectacular. Before entering, we had the privilege of hearing a Holocaust survivor speak. It pains him deeply every time he gives a talk, but he feels obligated to share his story to make sure it never happens again. Considering how old this gentleman and all the other survivors are, that may have been the only time I’ll ever hear a survivor speak in person. Although I gained a lot by hearing the man speak, I already knew how unfathomable the Holocaust was. That is something everyone should learn at a young age, though so many Americans don’t.

I learned that despite being surrounded by people and governments that hate them, Israelis move on with life at a 21st century pace. We spoke a bit about the many threats Israel faces. I believe Iran’s nuclear program is the most critical. That wasn’t even a top-3 topic in our discussion. Israelis seem in a bigger rush than Washingtonians or New Yorkers and they don’t have time to fret about Ahmadinejad.

I learned that Israelis wheel and deal more so than Blagojevich. I was rushed through stores and eateries, expected to know what I wanted to buy before entering, buy those items, buy additional impulse items, and then run out of the store to tell others to buy the same stuff. Their cost of living is high, too, but they make up for it by making Coke Zero available most everywhere. That made me willing to forgive the Coke Zero can being closer to 11 ounces than 12.

While rooming with one of the soldiers one night, he was talking to me after he took a shower. He dropped his towel and then stayed that way for several minutes to put on deodorant and such before dressing, still talking and looking at me. I learned that either soldiers in general, Israelis in general, or Israeli soldiers in particular have different standards regarding air-drying.

I learned that, while chasing girls, I shouldn't concede victory just because my competitor is a foreign soldier who drops towel far more leniently than he should. Fiery, my interest on the trip, told me so at the end of the trip when I inquired. On that note, I learned that I am better looking at very low body fat (like I was in Israel) than at just low body fat (like I was in last month’s rejection). Those two examples are a proper sample size to conclude cause and effect, not just correlation, so I expect great things when I once again get low low low body fat probably next month.

When public restrooms are not available and you really need to pee, it’s OK to just go, man. I knew this way before going to Israel, and maybe more appropriately I should say you just go, man, even if it’s not perceived as OK. Despite the temperature in the 40s and the accompanied chilly sensation, this was the most scenic pee of my life. Ahhhh.
Golan Heights sunset

Leia Mais…

Monday, October 3, 2011

My Book is Now ‘50/50’ Toward Becoming a Movie

Seth Rogen and Joseph Gordon-Levitt star in 50/50
…Well, probably closer to 1/99, but the new film starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt strengthened my book’s chances. I saw it tonight with my friend, Republican, because it seems like a requirement for me to see all the cancer movies since I have a published cancer memoir and would love for it to become a film.

50/50 was well-done, and real. There were some big laughs, and the dramatic moments were unforced. Gordon-Levitt played the role of a typical twenty-something male with cancer spot-on, and I contend he should be nominated for a “best lead actor” award. It was pleasant to see another cancer media besides my book that isn’t sappy Lifetime-bound.

According to, the production budget for 50/50 was $8 million, which it has already earned in its opening weekend, making it well on its way to profitability (though, I do not know if that budget includes advertising). This is important because everything revolves around the Benjamins, and if this movie can be profitable then maybe “Twice the Movie” can, too.

One complaint about 50/50, I suspect, is that it is too real. I could hear Republican sniffle a couple times, and one scene in particular may bring a twinkle to your eye unless you are a robot like me. If I wanted to be a sellout then I would take notice regarding this blog’s level of realness…nah. I keep it real, and always will. But 50/50 is heavy, and viewers must be prepared for that. “Twice the Movie” would be more focused on dark humor and less heavy since the main character—yours truly—never considered death, a prime them throughout most cancer stories.

It may surprise that even after what I've been through I can sometimes use inspiration. And Gordon-Levitt delivered, reminding me to have more fun, take life less seriously, and remember my roots. Seeing him “fucked-up" with cancer, as I often describe in Twice, was a refreshing reminder of just that.

Leia Mais…

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Passed Away Resulting from Cancer: Poh Nikbar September

Rich Cronin

I own many hundreds of CDs, and I purchased more than half of them. My musical taste covers most genres, except opera, bluegrass, and Rebecca Black. I rarely hold back in my book or this blog, and I’m not about to now: I purchased seven albums by Britney, NSync, Backstreet, O-Town, and LFO. I expect my friend PepperoniNip to post a comment berating me, but just know that he also burned me one more NSync and one LFO album.

LFO was kind of the shit, and not simply because Jennifer Love Hewitt was in their “Girl on TV” video. Their lyrics were incredible: “You're the best girl that I ever did see/ The great Larry Bird Jersey 33,” and, “When I met you I said my name was Rich/ You look like a girl from Abercrombie and Fitch.”

I listened to their self-titled album on repeat on the plane ride to my first Israel trip, just before cancer. I’m sure Hewitt was on repeat in my mind, too. The following summer I listened to their Life Is Good album to and from my radiation sessions at NIH. At that point the end of my cancer treatment was near, and I mimicked my behavior from the previous year—stereo blaring, windows down, back sweat accumulating as I drove dozens of mph's over the limit. I was blind to the notion that August 2000 didn’t flow into August 2001. I did accept that Heidi Klum overtook Hewitt on my Top Five List, though.

LFO—like so many other athletes, musicians, movies and shows—helped to make cancer life easier for me. That’s why I was sad to hear the lead singer, Rich Cronin, died of leukemia last September after battling it for five years.

LFO found success with their self-titled album, which went platinum. They opened for NSync and Britney Spears, and Cronin was part of a VH1 show on boy bands. When their 15 minutes of fame were up, Cronin kept at it, releasing a solo album, creating a rap duo, and trying to reunite LFO years after splitting. As a fellow “artist” who has no idea how to sell my book and doubt I’ll ever make positive cash flow from it, I admire Cronin’s achievement and persistence.

Boy bands are dead, but they had a solid run. Perhaps Cronin and LFO were the most underrated of the bunch.
LFO's Rich Cronin

Leia Mais…

Friday, September 30, 2011


I was totally smitten over a girl who did not see me the same way. I’ve been accustomed to the amusing, self-deprecating sort of rejection, but this has weighed heavily and I have lost my swagger, my moxie, my arrogant cancerslayer aura. To get it back I must watch hundreds of hours of old wrestling footage of The Rock, and practice “The People’s Eyebrow” for even longer.

Although I suspect that method would work, as a galaxy-renowned author and motivational speaker I have too much pride to mimic a dude who wears tights. Instead, I will eliminate all visual body fat. Then, and only then, will I get my swag back.

I’ve been writing about this goal for far too long without accomplishing it. I apologize for that. But now I must succeed in order to feel like Ben-Jammin again. I’m spinning every morning while watching The Wire. My injured foot is healed enough to climb stairs. I plan to add a new weightlifting supplement beyond my usual egg protein, like nitric oxide or L-arginine. I will create a workout playlist with all of The Rock’s best lines.

And I’ll be hitting my punching bag, one of the best fat-burning activities I can perform. I assembled this myself earlier this year.

Drawings on an 80-pound heavy punching bag

But now that I have added my own illustrations, I can really lay the smack down. I’m not claiming to be a galaxy-renowned illustrator, so I’ll help you out interpreting these fist-inducing pics:
Drawings on an 80-pound heavy punching bag
Virginia Tech. Pure, unbridled hatred.
Drawings on an 80-pound heavy punching bag
Dallas Cowboys. Ditto.
Drawings on an 80-pound heavy punching bag
Salmon. Read my book.
Drawings on an 80-pound heavy punching bag
No, not Arby's. Particulate respirator mask.
Drawings on an 80-pound heavy punching bag
Biohazard symbol found on bags of chemotherapy.
Drawings on an 80-pound heavy punching bag
My crutches I used to turn cool tricks on.
Drawings on an 80-pound heavy punching bag
A hanging bag of IV meds. Take your pick which kind, or make up your own, like an anti-tanning drug. That could lead to some serious power punches.

My 2011 New Year’s resolution was to better myself, to ring in Benjamin 2.0. I have re-upped that resolution on Rosh Hashanah—the Jewish New Year. I also resolve not to blog about this fitness goal again until the task is complete. If you smell what the Ben-Jammin is cookin’!

Leia Mais…

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Staring at the Edge of a 45

Over two weeks ago I was lifting weights. I was in the middle of my second superset: from T-bar row to that bent-elbow-lift-straight-up-with-arms-out-to-the-side shoulder exercise, with a 45-pound plate. I rested the plate on a flat bench, and tried to grip the edge. It slipped off the bench towards the ground, where my right foot was lying. I saw the next second in slow-motion, which now makes me question my intelligence since I did not move my foot.

The plate descended vertically, meaning when it landed it's full force would hit one spot as opposed to being spread out evenly across its diameter. The "spot" was the top of my foot just under my second toe. The subsequent sequence of events were as follows:

  1. Excruciating pain
  2. Breath hold
  3. Release of endorphins
  4. Adrenaline rush
  5. Throbbing pain
  6. Limp away
  7. Embarrassment since the accident was seen by females on the treadmills
  8. Bruise
  9. Swelling
  10. Inability to move foot much
  11. Assumed breakage
  12. Wondering how I'd get around since I could barely walk on my leg
  13. Take pictures

An X-ray revealed no breakage, and hopefully by October I'll have full movement in all my toes.

Postscript: Days later I was bench pressing without a spotter with one plate on each side. I did one too many reps and couldn't lift the bar to the hooks. I rested it on my chest and tried again, unsuccessfully. I tilted the bar to the side to dump the plates, but it didn't work. My sternum was getting sore. Two girls saw my struggle and asked if I needed help. I made some form of groaning noise, and they came over to lift the bar off my chest. I think they were the same girls as on the treadmills. I may have to move apartment buildings now, or get facial reconstructive surgery. I'm thinking Iggy Pop.
Scary Iggy Pop

Leia Mais…

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

If You’re Having Girl Problems I Feel Bad For You Son

“Do you love her?” Hamburgers asked me, referring to my female companion, Sec-Z-Bec.

“Are you crazy?” I said. “I’ve only known her for three weeks. I don’t know, Hamburgers. I don’t even know what that means.”

Though his question would have never crossed my mind had I been in his shoes, I realized Hamburgers asked me for a reason—because it is a normal human curiosity. Is it also a normal human feeling after only spending time with a romantic interest for three weeks?

Hamburgers laughed at my inquiry into human nature. I kind of liked Sec-Z-Bec because she fit a set of requirements including physical attractiveness, humor, intelligence, and perceived interest in me. Love? C'mon, man.

One week later Hamburgers asked how things were going with Sec-Z-Bec. I laughed. “She’s starting to grow on me,” I said.

Sec-Z-Bec and I continued spending time with each other. And then, abruptly, she ended communication with me. I felt poorly, not because I loved her like crazy Hamburgers suggested, but because I thought I screwed something up. You see, I hate making mistakes—making the wrong purchase, ordering the wrong item at dinner, or saying the wrong thing. It is a selfish viewpoint: I just don’t want to regret my actions or inactions.

Sec-Z-Bec explained her flaky behavior, and assured me that it was nothing I did or didn’t do. I felt relieved. Communication and consuming calories together continued. And then, once again, Sec-Z-Bec distanced from me.

I am used to a sense of normalcy: the absence of pain, discomfort, fear and anxiety; and the presence of calm and content. Now for the second time I felt antsy, but this time was unrelated to regret, but rather a sense of loss.

Sec-Z-Bec inspired me. Because of her I now only drink unhealthy Coke Zeros on special occasions. I was always going to eliminate all visible body fat, but because of her I have accelerated my efforts. Above all, she inspired me to be more human. I have lost her, and not because of any fault of mine—she had internal issues that required resolution. My restlessness is because of this strange, human thing called sadness.

Friends used to whine to me about their girl problems. I could not understand what the big deal was because I hadn’t experienced what they were feeling. My friends prefaced their complaints with, “I know this is nothing compared to cancer, but…” I reminded them that everything in life is relative, and although I couldn’t relate to their pain and they couldn’t have related to mine, it was not my place to suggest mine was worse than theirs.

I get it, now. This pain has nothing to do with needle insertions or rehabilitation from cancer surgery. This is an entirely human pain. 2011 begins Benjamin 2.0: my ascension from superhuman (or inhuman) to human.

And so I will drown this pain like you might expect of me: by breaking the pedals off my spin bike and hitting my heavy bag with the force of a thousand men. I will not revert to destructive behavior like drinking alcohol. If I am tempted then I need only remind myself what Sec-Z-Bec has taught me.

Before receiving confirmation that my fling was over, I mentioned my troubles to my friend, TinyAppetite. I quoted the Jay-Z song “99 Problems” in which he raps: If you're havin' girl problems I feel bad for you son.

TinyAppetite shot back with a different Jay-Z rap: On to the next one.

“But I don’t want to move on to the next one,” I told TinyAppetite. “I really like this one.”

Well, Benjamin 2.0, maybe Jay-Z was right.

Leia Mais…

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Ten Years Cancer-Free

I enter the large, dark room, approach the table in the middle, and lie face-down. I bury my head in a pillow and close my eyes. I hear the nurse exit and close the door behind her. The door locks, and the “Radiation” sign illuminates.

I hear the machine turn on and move, get in position, and hover over me. I fidget to get comfortable one last time, and then I do not move. I focus on my breathing and I focus on my muscles not twitching. The energy about to exit the machine over the next ten minutes—the amount in about 180 CT scans—will burn my skin, which is already tomato-red from the previous 24 sessions I've had. It will blaze through my intestines, muscles, nerves, and now-dead bone. Most importantly it will annihilate the cancer cells that I believe have already been dead for 11 months. Dead from the first of 14 cycles of chemo. Dead because I felt them burning alive, a pain I will never forget and a pain I wish I hadn’t taken Tylenol to mask.

Minutes later, the machine stops making noise. I hear the nurse open the massive steel door and say that radiation is over. I follow her into the lobby. She says she will miss me, hugs me, and gives me a Hershey’s bar. I am confident that I will never receive another milliliter of chemotherapy. I will never again lie motionless in front of a machine that shoots waves of destructive energy through me. I will never again be termed a “cancer patient”; be seen as the Sick Kid; have another nurse say she will miss me.

It is Friday, September 14, 2001, at 3:40 p.m.. I am a bone cancer survivor, age 17.


Left untreated, the death rate for people diagnosed with cancer is surely between 90-100%. With treatment, the five-year death rate for people diagnosed with cancer is over 30%. Does any other disease approach this level of killing?

As a white male born in 1983, my life expectancy was 71.6 years old. I won’t try to calculate my new life expectancy after Ewing’s sarcoma age 16, 60-70% chance of five-year survival. Or myelodysplasia age 19, 30-50% chance of five-year survival.

But then again, 50 Cent wasn’t supposed to survive being shot nine times.

Today, the very minute this story publishes online, I have been cancer-free from Ewing’s sarcoma for ten years. What does that mean? Perhaps every single cancer cell was killed by the end of my second day of chemo, on September 29, 2000. And perhaps all the cells were surgically resected on January 10, 2001. So that makes September 14 the latest-possible survival date, the most true point in time if there ever was one. The truth I know—not the one based on the above statistics or actuary table or how many late effects I’m supposed to be living with—is that I am doing great.

The truth is that I also miss the suffering because what happened following the suffering is what most think of as “normal,” or the absence of pain and discomfort. But “normal” following the suffering was more like euphoria. But just as a person’s level of happiness after winning the lottery eventually reverts back to “normal,” my euphoria dissipated. For much of my survivorship I attempted to regain that euphoria, often resulting in me being stuck in my teenage past. I liken this to a professional athlete refusing to let go and retire.

I understand now that I can’t regain that euphoria like it’s a lost treasure. It was a benefit of cancer, and it’s gone, just like my tumor. To take things for granted and move on with life is to be human.

This past weekend my dad and I visited my grandparents’ graves in Long Island. They passed away before I had a memory. Before our short service, my dad updated them with the family’s health, beginning with me. It isn’t that he loves me more than my brother and mom. It’s just natural to start with the health of the two-time pediatric cancer survivor. This is how it will always be. I get it.

But as I strive to reach 6% body fat, function pain-free and almost never get sick, people I know live with AIDS, or chronic, relentless pain. Or live with the scars of sexual abuse, or the fear of developing bipolar disorder. Or live with a tumor that will forever require drugs to tame, or have died from cancer, or live with a colostomy bag.

I’m not suggesting I’m immune to another cancer. Clearly my confidence ten years ago didn’t prevent a second. The truth is nobody knows if and when they will develop cancer. I can play the odds and live my life in fear. Or I can be thankful that I’m doing so well, and that I’ve reached a decade of cancer freedom. Five years cancer-free is the milestone when the risk of cancer recurrence is low enough to use the word "cured." Ten years cancer-free is the milestone when I can now just celebrate the accomplishment; celebrate that I survived a murderous disease; celebrate life.

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