Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Two-Time Cancer-Slaying Super Model: Part I

American Cancer Society's Cure by Design in Washington, DC
“How would you like to be a model?” Star said. “Don’t laugh—our newest event is a fashion show called ‘Cure by Design’.”

Star had just purchased a copy of my book at my signing at a local Starbucks back in January. She thought of several ways I could get involved with her employer, American Cancer Society. Cure by Design—an event in which the fashion, design and retail communities join forces with the local corporate community to benefit the American Cancer Society—sounded the most interesting.

My only previous experience with fashion shows was watching Heidi Klum and the other Victoria’s Secret Angels strut down the runway. I thought Cure by Design would be stupid. But free book publicity + free designer clothing = sign me up. Multiply that by open bar = I’ll do anything.

The event was this past Saturday at The Grand Hyatt Washington. The twenty female and five male survivors of varying ages and sizes were not your typical models. I only recently became interested in men’s fashion, have never modeled anything, and, based on my success rate with girls, saying that my facial construction is attractive is arguable.

I quickly took up my role, though. The models were given a catwalk demonstration by a seeming professional. She showed the women how to walk with attitude, but I wouldn’t let the men remain a neglected bunch. “How should we guys walk,” I asked?

Her answer was insufficient, so I pestered. “Do we smile the whole time, part of the time, or none of the time?”

“Should we keep a hand in our pockets?”

“Seriously, how would Tyrese Gibson walk?”

During the dry run we walked as someone read our bios that we had provided to them. When I wrote my bio—a silly stream of self-promotion—I had assumed most of it would be replaced. But I finished my walk as the reader said, “And if Ben’s book, TWICE, ever becomes a movie then he hopes his character is played by his favorite musician, Lil Wayne.” Unadulterated.

With two hours left before the cocktail hour, the women began getting their hair and makeup done. The men were given the option, but all five went straight to the bar instead.

I was never one to talk about my cancer story. But in a setting like this, of course it comes up. I realized that all these other guys, from age 22 up to 51, had a sick sense of humor like me. KC, who was not far out from colon cancer, said he wouldn’t mind getting a colonoscopy every six months because he didn’t want the cancer to do him in. KC once had two or three colonoscopies within a week. “The prep was terrible. I was completely emptied out by the end of that week. You could’ve eaten off my colon, it was so clean,” he said.

Ashy also was a colon cancer survivor, and remarked on the colonoscopy preparation. “I used to have to drink a gallon of that berry shit. But this last time it was half that. I asked the doctor why and he said, ‘Well now you only have half a colon.’” Ah, the little things.

We all got in line prior to the fashion show. There was one child model, a 22-month-old girl. I got to walk behind her—a treat, except for the feeling of invisibility following in her little shoes.

Soon enough it was my turn, after the toddler and her escort made it off the stage. My adrenaline was running wild. My name was called. I walked up the steps and onto the catwalk, in front of the lights and roaring onlookers. I wore a pair of cargo shorts, a summery long sleeve shirt with turned-out cuffs and a unique inner design, and a navy cardigan, all from Homini Emerito by Mango. Walking was such a rush that I can barely remember it, and was over as soon as it began—a truly awesome experience.

My adrenaline relayed into confidence as I talked to PoorMichigan for the rest of the evening. We joked about driving off in one of the Porsches that were on display for the live auction, as well as me being famous. Regardless of my cheekbones and jaw not resembling Brad Pitts’, surely nobody could turn down a published author and model, right? Whoops! I guess I had forgotten I was only a fake model. (Don’t tell PoorMichigan that I’m only a quasi-author, too.) “I would go out with you, but I don’t think my boyfriend would approve,” she responded to my inquiry. I guess I’ll just have to become a real model in order to insure against rejection. Read about that in “The Two-Time Cancer-Slaying Super Model: Part II,” coming soon.

I met many awesome people. One survivor got her inspiration from her friend, a five-time survivor. Another survivor’s body no longer functions properly because of her brain cancer—a young and uber-fit woman, requiring a pacemaker among God knows what else. I may have been the only multi-cancer survivor. There just aren’t many of us; I’m one of the few who have made it this far. Me and Five-Time. Fucked. It’s all fucked.

I hardly sell any copies of my book. Despite its 4.5-star Amazon rating; readers who say it is their favorite book, gives them a new perspective on life, is hilarious; and my fiery desire for it to take off, it may never do so. Selling books—or anything—is very difficult. Nevertheless, my book has provided me the opportunity to participate in events like Cure by Design, and I am grateful for that.

Keep reading:
The Two-Time Cancer-Slaying Super Model: Part II