Thirteen years ago I received my wish from the Make-A-Wish Foundation--a 53-inch high definition television and accompanying electronic devices. It is now in its final days, so I made a video tribute to the greatest gift I've ever received.
Tuesday, December 31, 2013
Thirteen years ago I received my wish from the Make-A-Wish Foundation--a 53-inch high definition television and accompanying electronic devices. It is now in its final days, so I made a video tribute to the greatest gift I've ever received.
Sunday, December 15, 2013
As published on The Huffington Post
My friend did not want to celebrate her 30th birthday. She hadn't accomplished what she had expected. She drowned in a void -- her hollowness filled with a ticking clock, save-the-date cards, movies and shows with typical American happy endings. To her, 30 was not part of the linear ascent but rather a cliff. "You can either feel young or wise," she said.
There are many things to count besides years of living. As a boy I counted my baseball cards; specifically the ones with Ken Griffey, Jr., and Cal Ripken, Jr. I counted the minutes until I was allowed to finish practicing piano. I counted each passed week during summer break, glowing after only one and sulking with only a few left.
When I was 16 and 17, I watched the hour-countdown on my IV pump, rejoiced at the beep, watched the next hour-countdown, rejoiced at the next beep. I counted the drips of anti-tumor drugs. Some staggered, clumped together and formed one large drip. Others followed one after the other. I counted down until bedtime so that I could begin again the next day. Keep reading, here.
Tuesday, November 26, 2013
After my rock-climbing group vacation last summer, my new friend, KMac, read my memoir. My last chapter is an excursion into self-discovery—the boy who grew up with immense suffering becomes a man without much. I list all the people in my life who have passed away resulting from cancer: three grandparents, some patients I met in treatment, a friend’s dad, and some others. The list was shorter than expected because until recently, I pushed the cancer community away.
Of the 15 cancer “survivors” on our vacation, some were still in treatment and some would begin again soon. This is the nature of young people with cancer—it is relentless, lacks empathy, and destroys. “Your list is about to grow,” KMac said.
When Sunny’s cervical cancer returned seven months after her original diagnosis, she received chemotherapy and a radical hysterectomy including the removal of her ovaries. Her lymph nodes and surrounding tissue, entire vagina, urethra and bladder were also removed. Radiation blasted her body cavity along her pelvic wall. Her urologist rerouted her urinary tract using a urostomy that hangs from her belly. Sunny’s plastic surgeon recreated a vagina using the left half of her abdominal muscles and the skin that covers them.
Sunny moved 1,200 miles to receive treatment, spent 27 consecutive days in a medical facility, banked 10 embryos and seven eggs, and has zero internal female reproductive organs and a 15-inch scar running down her abdomen, all thanks to her five tumors. Months later her cancer returned again and Sunny underwent more surgery and radiation. Then declared cancer-free, she continued to be hospitalized for infections and other issues.
I don’t know if I’ve ever seen someone endure the level of suffering that Sunny has over the past year.
Scans showed even more cancer and there are no more treatment options for Sunny.
Lings and Doogie, two others from my rock-climbing trip, joined me on Google Hangouts to remember Sunny. We didn’t know how far her cancer spread; how bad it was. We knew that without hope, the devastation can be swift.
“Do you think if she could do it over again, she would not have proceeded with treatment last fall?” I asked Lings. “I know that is unfair to ask; probably horrible to think. But I can’t help it.”
“I don’t know. It was a chance. I think I’d go for the chance,” Lings said.
We praise the fighters for their bravery while looking down on those who choose to live out the remainder of their lives. When, if ever, does quality of life rank higher than quantity?
All at once I suffocated with regret, a feeling I despise. I could have become closer with Sunny had I tried. “Regret is no more useful than hindsight,” Lings wrote in comfort.
In sadness, there is hope and inspiration. Days after learning of Sunny’s latest scan, I felt inspired to attend a random happy hour where I met Leeuwin, a couch-surfing German-Dutch traveler. I connected with Leeuwin on Facebook through a mutual friend and invited her rock-climbing.
Leeuwin, Dutch for lioness, is the climbing nickname I designated for her which was inspired by Lings, Sunny and all my other cancer friends’ climbing nicknames. Later, Leeuwin invited me to sing karaoke, where we and her couch-surfing friends chirped until the Metro stopped running on a Sunday night, several hours before I awoke for work. So I guess in the inspiration resulting from sadness comes adventure and liveliness.
I don’t know how many more rock-climbing, traveling or karaoke adventures Sunny has left. I know that she has touched the lives of thousands of people including those who have known her personally and others who watched her on The Jeff Probst Show. If only the goal in life was to inspire instead of simply to live.
Sunny made me grateful that I am, somehow, so healthy—so I guess with sadness comes sickening shame, too. With the holidays nearing, I am grateful for my health and the chance to sing terrible songs with strangers just because that’s something Sunny would do.
We all envy Sunny’s presence, attitude and energy. I wish we could bottle Sunny up and open the jar on special occasions or when we need sunshine. There are some other people in the world like Sunny, but not many. It is unfair how much the world is going to miss out without her.
Update March 5, 2014: Sunny passed away a month ago, on February 4, 2014, as a result of cancer.
Sunday, November 10, 2013
As published on The Huffington Post
The only way short guys survive is by knowing that we live longer and can weave through Costco aisles faster than our taller, wealthier, calmer, happier and more powerful, popular, employable, educated and sexually active counterparts.
Shortness is great when we are four years old and get to hold the plaque in our soccer team photo. And when every other kid on the field piles on the ball, short boys wait for it to pop out and score a goal on the opponent's or our own net. In baseball, pitchers can't come close to our smaller strike zone so our on-base percentage exceeds 1.000. We learn to shoot the basketball well because opponents reject all our layups. We win tons of Gushers playing H.O.R.S.E. which we use to barter extra tater tots at school lunch.
Grade school teachers find our smallness endearing and award us extra stickers and desired parts in class plays. Girls, who are often taller than boys until middle school, also find us cute -- although, since our height-valued culture makes us feel insecure, we pretend not to look when our crush lets us sneak a peek at her underwear.
Middle school bullies assume we are brainiacs and threaten to beat us up unless we provide our homework to copy, and then actually beat us up after receiving their unsatisfactory grades. Our friends think they can bully us, too, so we learn to punch them really hard. We begin strength training which stunts our bones further. Older girls at school dances bully us by spinning us in the air like helicopters. We do not return this favor.
We play tennis in high school because the soccer scrum and mini strike zone no longer apply. We become the lucky charm at sporting events which is like an acceptable form of bullying. Girls are curious why other guys rub our head and backside for luck, and they give us attention unrelated to helicopters. These would be our prime years if we understood how alcohol works. Keep reading, here.
Tuesday, October 29, 2013
9:51 a.m.: I don’t feel like rock-climbing, but I had spent hours planning the event under the email subject “Climb or DIE” so I have no choice. After waking, I sip my protein shake and as much water as my wretched stomach allows. Our noon climb 30 minutes away in Golden, Colorado, isn’t nearly accommodating to recover from the Great American Beer Festival. I still must:
- Wake Pumba next door
- Get Pumba ready to climb
- Get Pumba ready to drive
- Get Pumba to pick up the rope
- Get Pumba to pick up quick draws from McScuses
- Get Pumba to pick up our other friend, Princess
10:39 a.m.: Princess emails me her and McLoaner's numbers, asks how Pumba is, and offers to drive us.
10:39:27 a.m.: I contact McRunningOutOfNicknames about his quick draws.
10:39:47 a.m.: I call Princess. “Pumba is alive I think. I’ll elbow drop her now. A ride would be awesome…You can pick up the rope?...You’re functional this morning?…You’re a lifesaver!…We’ll be ready for you to pick us up at 11:15.”
10:40:51 a.m.: “PUMBA!”
10:41 a.m.: McSomething texts his address and that he will leave the quick draws on the porch.
10:43 a.m.: Pumba makes three calls from bed and then says, “I’m texting Princess where to pick up the rope. I’m sorry I can’t climb with you. I feel deathly.”
10:44 a.m.: I lie on the floor in Pumba’s room. I probably don’t drool.
11:14 a.m.: Princess calls. “I’m here!”
11:15 a.m.: I call Princess. “I don’t see you…Pumba gave you the wrong address and you see me from the end of the street?...You’re wearing pink?...I don’t see you but my vision isn’t superb now…Ok I’ll wait here.”
11:17 a.m.: I enter Princess’ car. “Don’t worry, I’ve never once missed a toilet, trashcan or tree with my vomit. I’ll give you advanced notice if it is coming.”
11:30 a.m.: Mc??? mis-typed his address and the owner of the home we are staring it isn’t happy. Princess speaks. “We are looking for our friend who is leaving us his quick draws (homeowner looks more confused) on his porch. But you don’t look like our friend (homeowner looks frightened)…He just moved in, are you aware of new neighbors?...Across the street?...Thanks!”
11:40 a.m.: I choose Arby’s over 7-11, my only two options for sustenance, and order a plain turkey sandwich with lettuce and tomato. I eat a few bites. “I think it is staying down.”
11:42 a.m.: I had contacted every climbing gym in Denver and posted an inquiry on every climbing forum looking for a lead climber. The owner of one gym forwarded my request to his friend who was happy to lead our group. I email him, and our expert climbing friend who will also join, that we’ll be late.
12:15 p.m.: We pile into one car en route to Cat Slab in Clear Creek Canyon. I don’t feel like rock-climbing or even moving.
12:45 p.m.: We exit the car and I lag far behind as I traverse the steep trail toward our climbing wall. I take my gear, water and remaining Arby’s with me.
1:00 p.m.: Our expert climbing friend and new lead climbing friend set the routes. I can’t believe I’m about to rock-climb.
1:05 p.m.: I need to relieve myself. I have gone in many toilets, buckets and other collection containers, and many people have seen, measured and tested my waste, but I have never gone in nature. What would Bear Grylls do?
1:07 p.m.: I see some large rocks far down a steep, rocky path, next to a stream and across from a walking trail. There is no vegetation. I spot my Arby’s bag and open it. Clearly God had steered me towards Arby’s instead of 7-11 because of the three provided napkins. I pocket them and carefully walk down.
1:10 p.m.: I reach the rock formation and investigate.
1:15 p.m.: There is nowhere to completely hide so I settle on a small rock to slouch on, in front of a large rock to lean against. The crevice between them is my mark.
1:16 p.m.: I look in every direction for humans. Nobody is approaching or across on the walking trail. I turn back toward the climbers to gauge my visibility. I lean lower on the rock and hope just my head can be seen.
1:17 p.m.: Having no experience, I drop pants and drawers close to my shoes and hold my shirt high and tight. I’d rather cut off circulation than allow gravity to place extra shirt material where it doesn’t need to be.
1:19 p.m.: I stare at the three napkins in my hand and pray. The only alternative is sandy granite. (I will only need one napkin, will use them all, leave them there, and apologize to nature for my environmental offense.)
1:20 p.m.: I cannot find my result. I turn my clothes in every direction, check every part of me, double-triple-quadruple-check every part of me, nearly pull a neck muscle trying to confirm that I am not as ignorant as a toddler.
1:23 p.m.: I return to my group and hope the mental checklist I created from watching hours of Bear Grylls footage is not missing a critical step.
1:25 p.m.: I finish my turkey and bread. I hold the sandwich with my other hand.
1:40 p.m.: Full of food and water, clean and free of debris, I secure my harness. I’m up next. Climb or DIE.
Thursday, October 17, 2013
I also don’t make decisions blindly. The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, founded in 1949, is the world's largest voluntary health organization dedicated to blood cancer. In 2012 it invested $68 million in research. Charity Navigator rates it 3/4 stars overall and 4/4 in accountability and transparency.
By the Grand Finale Gala on June 14, I will be 11 years cancer-free from my second cancer, which was (shocker) a cancer of the blood. Therefore, my goal is to raise $10,000 for each cancer-free year, totaling $110,000!
I will need help. Although donations to help save the lives of people like me are the primary support, I’ll also need:
- Friendly conversation;
- Candy for sustenance;
- Coke Zero for elation; and
- Most importantly, help reaching other communities for more donations to help save lives.
Sincerely, your friend and hopefully future Milky Way champion,
Friday, October 11, 2013
As published on The Huffington Post
The government shutdown has been rough on the hundreds of thousands of furloughed federal employees and laid-off contractors. But just think how much worse it could be if other things shut down.
If Facebook shut down, then fourth quarter GDP in the U.S. would probably grow by 39 percent.
If Google shut down, then I can't think of a scenario in which the world wouldn't end. Ditto for porn.
If Lindsay Lohan shut down, then courts, TMZ, Us Weekly, nightclubs, hair color companies, car and theft insurance companies, and the Promises, Wonderland and Cirque Lodge rehab facilities would all shut down.
If the NFL shut down, then God may not exist.
If coffee shut down, then Starbucks would only serve venti iced skinny hazelnut rum, sugar-free syrup, extra shot, light ice, no whip. God probably exists. Keep reading, here
Tuesday, October 1, 2013
I am fortunate to remain working as 800,000 other federal employees are sent home without pay. I deal with catastrophe and hardship with terrible humor and I mean no disrespect…
What would happen in the event of a cancerslayerblog Blog Shutdown?
Its single author, editor, coder, formatter and publisher would have to stop work. He would also continue receiving $0.
Its seven loyal readers and 13 occasional visitors would be forced to reread previous stories such as Chemo Sprinkles and wonder why they ever visited this blog. They would then never visit cancerslayerblog again.
Now with extra time to read other things, one of this blog’s readers would devote himself to studying Justin Bieber. He would then enter depression and be unable to afford counseling. He would forget to clean his teeth and without access to preventive care, they would all fall out. Unable to chew, he would then subsist on Jolly Ranchers. Once his blood glucose exceeds 4,999 while crowd surfing at a Bieber concert, his heart would stop, he would die, and his next of kin would sue Bieber for all his wealth and end up settling on authentic replicas of Bieber’s owl tattoo. Screw tort reform.
All the blog’s stakeholders would bicker over why the Blog Shutdown occurred and pretend they are trying to fix it. In other words, I end up talking to myself a lot.
Media outlets would point fingers at the “bad” stakeholders. I think this means that on Twitter I would demand that health insurers not cover my hip and heart scans. On Facebook I would state that my Twitter account is simply a hindrance to me selling books. Instagram would post selfies and maybe some nudies. Google Plus would play impartial by posting nothing. Goodreads would create its own Twitter account just to post glowing quotes about my book. YouTube would forget it existed and just watch funny videos of guys in wheelchairs picking up chicks. About.me would…hot damn I have too many media outlets.
Without this blog for continued practice, my writing would suffer. I would then lose my actual job as a writer/editor in the federal government, lose my health insurance and then blame Twitter for forcing me to live in fear that healthcare would bankrupt me. I would then enter the health insurance black market by paying my pediatric surgeon-friend, NoCommonSense, Get Out of Jail Free cards in exchange for future surgical procedures. I would target calf implants in 2016.
Jobless and with ample time and no other skills, I would watch Breaking Bad start-to-end at least monthly in order to learn how to cook meth. I would distribute the meth to the 800,000 jobless federal employees. Now without teeth, skills and health insurance, we would all look forward to our respective shutdowns to end so that we could contribute to America again.
Saturday, September 14, 2013
This is the final installment of a three-part short story which spans my 11th and 12th anniversaries of surviving bone cancer. You can read the first two parts here (in order):
The Journey of Ewing Sarcoma
Ewing Sarcoma and a Purpose Driven Life: Part I
Ewing would need an assistant to help him fulfill his purpose. He considered contacting local high schools for cheap labor, but who was he kidding—nobody was as brilliant or fun as Pong. Some of their oxy and sewage-charged evenings were epic. If he returned his brain to that precise chemical imbalance then maybe he would remember the forest trails that led back to Pong.
Ewing had a foreboding feeling about Pong. He couldn’t build the proper bartering wealth to attain his drug concoction soon enough. Full of shame and conviction, he engaged in one more sexual act with a forest creature in exchange for drugs.
Ewing recalled the formula Pong had developed for the perfect high, and re-calculated based on his increased weight (hey, it’s hard to keep the fat off). He mixed his two drugs and waited, though not for long. He saw the path so vividly in his mind, as if it were implanted! Ewing jumped up and hopped through the forest toward Pong faster than he ever had before.
When his vision ended he stopped hopping and was certain the longitude and latitude were precise. He called to his friend, “Pooooooong!” until he couldn’t breathe, and then yelled again, over and over. No response. Ewing feared the worst as his heart ached with regret. He should have taken his small friend with him when he stupidly thought he was dying. Ewing sobbed himself to sleep.
Sometimes Ben lost his way. He ate unclean food and allowed unclean thoughts to penetrate his mind. Worst, he sometimes lost sight of where he came from.
On his 11th cancer-free anniversary Ben had recalled the perception of his tumor that he drew before beginning cancer treatment, when he was 16. He had used that picture to motivate him to anger. Ben must have gotten soft in his late twenties because he grew to see that picture as a symbol, a reminder of where he came from. So that he would never again lose his way, Ben got a permanent tattoo of Ewing. I’ll bring Ewing back to life, Ben said jokingly.
Ben laughed out loud at his next thought—tattoos are addictive and it is time for a new one. He couldn’t wait to tell his mom about his new tattoo idea. Maybe he would tell her on his 12th anniversary of surviving Ewing’s sarcoma, on September 14, 2013, at 3:40 p.m. Ben looked at the timestamp of this blog story…er, I mean his watch. Damn time flies!
He picked up the phone. “Hey mom…”
Once again, a crying mouse awakened Ewing. He rubbed his big eyes and then had to blink hard. He was staring at Pong! But Pong was sort of grayish, and also wearing a red ninjutsu robe.
Ewing rifled off sentences without breaks. “Pong I looked for you I’m so sorry I left you I shouldn’t have left you I’m sorry my friend Pong oh dear Pong I’m so glad I found you please forgive me!”
Pong spoke softly. “Dear Ewing Sarcoma, I forgive you, though you need not even apologize. You were wonderful to me and I felt you needed space to find you own path.
“I was able to survive for a long time. I outsmarted my predators and talked my way out of being eaten. Sometimes I had to negotiate my survival by committing sexual acts. Oh, that horror and shame, but I longed to live. What can I say—I’m a hopeful motherfu…”
“What do you mean ‘able to survive for a long time,’” Ewing interrupted.
“Ewing: I am deceased, consumed by a rat snake. Of everything I survived and all the potential ways to go, can you believe it was a rat snake? That still pisses me off. But Ewing, my best friend forever, I met my father in limbo. As I suspected, my father is Master Splinter. I do not hate him any longer. With my superior intellectual capacities and his 749 years of crystallized, albeit diminishing, knowledge, we concocted a new drug that lets me straddle life and death.”
“I don’t understand,” Ewing said with tears streaming down his face.
“Ewing, I will always be with you, but only you can see me.”
Ewing’s simple mind still couldn’t understand, but AlternatePong was here, talking with him, and nothing else mattered! Ewing told AlternatePong about his new purpose in life and how he needed help. AlternatePong was thrilled to assist.
Ewing and AlternatePong worked on their mutual life purpose—helping sick children feel comfort, empowerment and joy. They worked on a precise schedule because AlternatePong had to take his quasi life-sustaining drug every six hours, with just a four-minute window before and after. “That’s more intense than the pill schedule for someone with HIV,” Ewing said.
For four hours three times a day, they worked together under their favorite oak tree. They brainstormed, contacted stakeholders, and drafted communications and marketing plans. Ewing and AlternatePong loved children and how they saw the world. Ewing’s journey to find his life’s purpose was long and hard, but every second of their work was rewarding.
Ben finished talking to his mom, who congratulated him on 12 years of freedom from cancer. “If you get another tattoo then I’ll be forced to get one, too,” she also said.
“I’ll help you choose your design.” He could always call her bluff.
Ben poured a glass of wine and walked to his community pool. It was 75 degrees and beautiful. A little boy was playing in the pool, splashing and laughing wildly. He swam to Ben and introduced himself as Timmy. Ben’s eyes drifted to the bump on Timmy’s chest, under his skin. Ben would recognize that port, which delivers chemotherapy, any day. “What is that picture on you?” Timmy asked.
Ben thought hard about how to answer. He looked toward his ribcage at Ewing. “This guy? This is Ewing. Do you want to hear more about Ewing?”
Ben rushed into his home and printed the design of Ewing that his tattoo artist had used, placed tape on the back of the paper, and then brought it to Timmy. “Timmy, meet your new friend, Ewing. Though he doesn’t have super powers like you do, he can be your sidekick if you let him.”
Ben pressed Ewing onto the front of Timmy’s little bookbag. “Ewing will listen to you when you’re sad, motivate you to be strong, and fight illness with you. Ewing can be your secret protector!”
Timmy loved Ewing. “Can just anyone have Ewing?”
“No, Timmy. Only kids who have to deal with illness can get a Ewing. He knows what you’re going through and how isolating cancer can be. But he also knows that you have a special perspective and a unique story to tell, someday, when you’re ready. You already have a ‘cool’ factor, and now you have a Ewing!”
The next day Ben printed dozens of stickers of Ewing and gave them to Timmy. “Now you can take him everywhere.”
Ben returned to his home and poured another glass of wine, thinking back on his 13 years with Ewing, 12 as a survivor. You gave me motivation, hope and perspective. Now you helped Timmy. So I guess you gave me purpose, too. On this Day of Atonement I am sorry I ever threw you in the garbage can. It turns out I always needed you, Ewing.
Ewing woke up hearing Ben’s thoughts. He was so overcome with joy that he hadn’t noticed AlternatePong and Master Splinter next to him, or that his blue spots looked somewhat transparent. “Where are we?”
AlternatePong answered. “Were you able to comprehend that crazy ass Freud when you read his work?”
“Of course not. He was crazy.”
“Well, he was one crazy ass but…”
“Just tell him,” Master Splinter interrupted.
AlternatePong complied. “Ewing: we are all different layers of Ben’s preconscious and unconscious mind. That includes you.”
Ewing began sobbing violently. “What does that mean? Tell me, please!!”
“Ewing, we aren’t real. We are a part of Ben, sometimes guiding him towards right and sometimes just observing.”
Ewing wiped his eyes for the final time. He understood. The purpose he sought had always been correlated with Ben’s desires, morals and purpose. He, both Pongs and even Master Splinter were a part of Ben. And then just like that, Ewing knowingly closed his eyes for the final time, never feeling more at peace.
Ben sat down next to Ethan, a quiet 16-year-old boy who he volunteered to spend time with, in Ethan’s transplant room, offering a box of pizza.
“Is it pepperoni?” Ethan asked.
“It wouldn’t be pizza if it were anything else,” Ben said. “Oh wait, are you allowed to have this?”
“Ha-ha, so funny. You better have gotten me more than one slice for that comment.”
Ben arrived at the hospital just in time to watch the analysts’ predictions before the Redskins game. “Well, who ya got?”
“Never bet against RG3,” Ethan said.
“That’s my man,” Ben said to his young friend.
Next to Ethan stood his IV pole which held bags of liquid that dripped, dripped, dripped into him. And on each of those bags was a sticker of Ewing that some little kid was handing out a while back. Ethan used the stickers to cover the IV bags’ biohazard symbols. Oh, Timmy! Ben thought.
Before kickoff Ben looked at Ethan and smiled, and then looked up at Ewing. Ben chuckled. He could have sworn Ewing smiled back.
Postscript: If you wish to share then I would be more than grateful to hear your feedback on this three-part short story. After years of blogging I am still honored to have interested readers. Thank you.
Disclaimer: The character Ewing Sarcoma and its likeness are the property of Benjamin Rubenstein. All rights reserved.
Friday, September 13, 2013
This is the second of three installments of this short story which spans my 11th and 12th anniversaries of surviving bone cancer. You can read the first part, which I wrote last year, here: The Journey of Ewing Sarcoma
Ewing Sarcoma hopped much of the day and slept all night. He paid no attention to the date, time, angle of the sun, or anything else that keeps creatures grounded in reality. He ate when he felt hungry and found shelter when his bum got cold. He lived a clean life, breathing fresh, forest air and consuming only organic plant products. And he said the Shema for Ben, his creator, every night.
Wow, had time passed since Ben drew Ewing Sarcoma on Microsoft Paint before beginning cancer treatment when he was just a teenage boy! Ewing was Ben’s perception of his tumor, a symbol of how to destroy cancer. Ewing completed his task.
Though Ben didn’t know it, Ewing was alive and when Ben no longer needed Ewing, the little guy left. Ewing returned to look in on Ben many years later, when Ben had become a young man. But Ewing left again to let Ben find his own way. Ben was trying his best to live a complete life thanks to cancer, but what about Ewing’s purpose?
Ewing was a loner, the only breathing tumor perception in the world, maybe the universe! If he could convince other people diagnosed with cancer to draw their tumor perceptions like Ben had, then they would be motivated to survive and live a complete life.
But how did he come to life in the first place? How could he replicate that magic, and who would talk to a blue-spotted blob, let alone be convinced to draw a picture of a tumor? Ah, it was futile. Despite his overwhelming sense of hope, Ewing had some logic below those spikey hairs.
Ewing could only hop so long without his butt callouses erupting into a blue-blooded mess. He spent many of his remaining waking hours reading Friedrich Nietzsche, that crazy ass Sigmund Freud, and of course James Patterson. He also considered a new purpose. Brief epiphanies came to him in dreams or when he hallucinated on psilocybin mushrooms (don’t get Ewing started on their natural health benefits or drug policy). He was just always too high to write his epiphanies, and would forget the next morning.
One morning Ewing was awakened by a crying baby mouse. Memories of his old pal, a small mouse named Pong, pulsed through his mind. Snippets of the previous night’s epiphany also crashed through his interrupted REM sleep and into semi-consciousness. Ewing rubbed his eyes, hair, blue spots; anything to stimulate his senses. Hold on, it was coming to him! Yes, wait...he got it! Ewing found his new purpose in life.
Ewing Sarcoma would help children cope with disease. It’s no fun when kids can’t play with their friends because their illness makes them feel badly. Their friends may not understand why, but I know what’s up. I will watch over them. Kids, get ready to meet your new sidekick, Ewing!
I’m a chameleon. I change for self-improvement, and I do this better than anyone in the universe, Ben thought. Change would lead to perfection, which would stymie fears of cancer recurrence or rejection, which would lead to an uncrackable superesteem. Ben chuckled. He chuckles too often, and one has to wonder if he’s becoming as crazy as that crazy ass Sigmund Freud.
Ben shared this theory with a new friend, McNasty, who is a decade older than Ben. Ben even prefaced his “wisdom” by saying, “I know this is weird coming from someone who is younger…”
McNasty called Ben on his bullshit. “You seek perfection to camouflage your true fears. I do the same thing.” McNasty was the wise one.
It had only been a couple years since Ben felt…normal, mature, like a real adult? He couldn’t explain it, whatever it was. He hadn’t forgotten his past, but also needed to move forward. Ben was destined for a tug-of-war between the two.
Ben sighed. When his mind cluttered he turned to cleanliness. His food, attire, appearance, residence: all clean and neat. Even his cancer brought a sense of cleanliness: he discovered his tumor and then became cancer-free a year apart, nearly to the minute on September 14, always around the Jewish High Holy Days. The New Year always brings a clean, new beginning.
It’s as if Ben and Ewing were born of the same genes.
Pong was no longer a baby like when he first met Ewing, but he was still small, even for a mouse. He was orphaned at such a young age after an incident involving his bastard dad that is too horrid to write. And while frolicking with Ewing, Pong got into narcotics and sewage alcohol, and there was some sexual abuse that I also cannot mention…no, he was not abused by Ewing! Get your mind out of the gutter.
Pong’s intelligence was an outlier, even on a human scale. I guess since my dad bestowed me with such wits, I can’t despise the old bastard with all my being, Pong thought. After intense research on ancestry.com and genetic blood testing, with a 95% confidence interval Pong’s father was Master Splinter.
Pong missed Ewing, his only real friend and guardian. He remembered playing with Ewing’s hair and poking his blue dots. Pong had never seen anything so gorgeous and blue! And then Ewing left abruptly because he thought he was dying, and wanted to pass away alone. Pong knew Ewing wasn’t actually dying and considered him kind of an idiot for thinking that, but let him go anyway. Pong understood Ewing needed to find his purpose. Except for IQ, they were so similar.
Pong lived in terror of being eaten, barely sleeping at night and avoiding predators during the day. Although he thought crazy ass Freud was a complete sicko, Pong would kill just for the opportunity to read his or anyone’s work. All the forest’s simple-minded creatures who wanted to eat him were stuck in the Stone Age, and were ruining his chance to fulfill any kind of purpose! Such wasted brilliance.
Pong always got the short end of the stick, but he remained hopeful. Maybe one day he and Ewing could be together again.
Keep reading to discover how Ewing's journey ends: Ewing Sarcoma and a Purpose Driven Life: Part II
Disclaimer: The character Ewing Sarcoma and its likeness are the property of Benjamin Rubenstein. All rights reserved.
Wednesday, September 11, 2013
As published on The Huffington Post
My heart is racing. "How excited and scared are you?" I say.
"On a 10-point scale... 7 and 3. I'm more scared of boredom for when I'm down here all alone. How about you?" Pumba says.
"100 and 100."
Our lead-climbing instructor set the first pitch: "Bailey's Overhang" on Castle Rock in Boulder Canyon. Pumba and I are waiting to climb while the second of our four-person team ascends. Pumba will climb last and clean the cams from the route.
Pumba is named after the sweet warthog who is Simba's guardian in The Lion King. I don't know her given name because we only use nicknames in rock-climbing. My nickname is Hippy because my left hip bone was surgically removed when I was a teenager. This is the last of our five-day rock-climbing trip composed of about 15 strangers.
In between shouts of encouragement to S'mores working her way up, Pumba shares how rock-climbing gave her peace when nothing else worked. I share how it's now the only sport I can succeed at after a childhood saturated with athletics, then a bone saturated with bad cells. Our necks are tiring from staring up at the rock, so we move further from the wall and into the warmth of the early sun. We've completed the most challenging routes in this order, Pumba after me, and the climbing instructors teamed us together on this "graduation day" because of that.
We see a different team from our trip on an adjacent climbing route, and wave up to them. "I hope everyone else takes pictures so we can see their routes," I say.
Pumba's face brightens as she reaches into her bag for her camera. "I totally forgot I'm the photog!" she says.
I love teasing her for forgetting her designated duty, though she has taken plenty of pictures of me climbing towards the sky. Pumba told me that she smiled up to the sky through the window the time she fell ill, her body nonresponsive and her mind stuck in time. "I could have kept that image forever," Pumba said.
S'mores reaches the top so I switch my left sneaker, which has a 2.25-inch lift because my femur migrated up without a bone to stop it, with my much leaner climbing shoe. I shout the proper "belay" and "climbing" commands, then look back towards Pumba and the gigantic Rocky Mountains behind her that make me both so small and grand. Keep reading, here
Monday, September 2, 2013
I’ll add an extra foot of height and she won’t care after I charm her, never crossed my mind, but other online daters are liars. The most frequent deception is using outdated profile photos.
I met Rocha for a date at Sportrock climbing gym without even having to beg her to participate in my favorite activity. She may be the one. Thankfully Rocha approached me because I may not have recognized her from her profile otherwise. While putting on our gear, I proactively prepared her to see me climb in a funny way and she retroactively prepared me to see a 30-pound-heavier version of Rocha.
I climbed first to prolong dealing with gravity. In rock-climbing, the belayer (the person on the ground holding the rope) should be within a certain weight range of the climber. Beyond that range it is possible for the climber to elevate the belayer, potentially until they meet in the air halfway. To prevent that, the belayer anchors to the ground.
I should have pretended to break a limb during my climb, or actually broken one, to avoid belaying Rocha, but I love climbing too much. I reached the ground and we reversed positions. “You’re really good, especially with one hip! I’m going to climb an easier route,” she said. An easier route reduced the likelihood of her falling. If she fell then I’d have to support her weight plus acceleration.
I looped the rope through my belay device and locked the carabineer. Then came the moment of truth: to anchor or not to anchor. If I anchored then I was guaranteed to embarrass Rocha significantly. If I didn’t anchor then there was a good chance I would embarrass Rocha irreparably if she pulled me off the ground, but there was also a chance I would stay grounded and she would never have to know.
I didn’t anchor. I checked Rocha’s figure 8 knot and told her, “climb on!” I got into a squat position and kept her rope so tight that she barely had enough slack to move.
Rocha’s foot positions were smart enough to make up for her limited strength, and she completed without slipping or having to “take.” When she was ready to come down, I placed my feet even further in front of me and got my ass down low. “On me!” I yelled up to Rocha.
She released from the wall and my feet slipped forward. Just when I was about to instruct her to reach back for the wall because I wasn’t ready, my feet halted. I sighed and began to lower her, each of my limbs performing a precise function meant to get her on the ground without me leaving it.
Mission accomplished. She touched down; I gave her extra slack, and nearly made her jump with my congratulatory enthusiasm.
Rocha lacked endurance and I mentally depleted mine, so we only climbed a few routes each. As is customary, Rocha gave me her phone number. A few days later I contacted her seeking another date, unfazed by our horizontal differences.
I guess she was fazed by my general nature. Add another strikeout to my tally.
Wednesday, August 21, 2013
Last year I went on an amazing rock-climbing trip through the organization First Descents (FD), which you can read about here and especially here. A few weeks ago I climbed in Estes Park, Colorado, again through FD. I have written a far more thoughtful story about this FD2 trip which will be published somewhere at some time in the semi-near future, but in the meantime I offer my trip in cool pictures and terrible captions:
|Welcome to the Rocky Mountains, so overwhelming and humbling and spectacular.|
|Our beautiful lodge, Overlook Ranch, had an 18-hole frisbee golf course, but only had two bathrooms for the nine female and two male participants. Tbar and I showered real quick for the sake of our safety.|
|Poison, the head chef, and I schemed when we would break the rule and use the zipline. We two rebels became fast friends.|
|Mission accomplished, caught red-handed.|
|The view from Overlook Ranch. And hey, worst-case is there's always nature as a bathroom.|
|It is up in the air whether we frisbee-golfed or rock-climbed more...|
|There was some rock-climbing, too, including in the cold rain. Cancer People don't mess around when it comes to popping pills, watching 50/50 and rock-climbing.|
|KMac also doesn't mess around when it comes to reading. KMac ain't got no time to belay other climbers.|
|I climbed in a hula skirt, an award I earned. I didn't mind showing off what was under the skirt.|
|I also didn't mind McSneaky giving me a butt-boost on the most challenging route of the trip.|
|I failed that route from two different approaches, and depleted my energy before the day was half over. If my hula skirt were a cape here then Soulja Boy would need to rethink his definition of The Superman.|
|I envy Dealer's actual cape and Superman impersonation.|
|I completed every climb besides the 5.9+ route shown above, in part thanks to my most frequent belayer, Pumba.|
|Pumba was the camp photog. She got artistic here, capturing the ropes on our "graduation day" multi-pitch, five-hour climb.|
|Princess, the camp's "general support," generally supported us really well. I've never met an FDer whose nickname was more fitting. Just kidding, Princess...well, generally.|
|My multi-pitch team was psyched before our graduation day climb: "Bailey's Overhang" at Boulder Canyon in Nederland, Colorado. From left to right: S'mores, Hippy (me), Tbar, Pumba and Author (our guide).|
|Many of us performed unique climbing moves that were then named after our nicknames. This is me performing "The Princess." I don't know how I got my hipless leg on the wall like that, but it worked. Sadly, "The Princess" was not successful for Princess. She is bitter that her move was named after an unsuccessful effort. On the other hand, "The Hippy," which was basically a shimmy using just my stomach, worked. Sorry, Princess...generally.|
|After completing the third pitch, four-and-a-half hours into my climb, I had to rest from 250 feet above the ground. This was among my most incredible views, challenges and days, and you will be able to read about this soon.|
|My team was the last atop Boulder Canyon, two hours later than the team that arrived earliest. The group wanted a photo. My priority was devouring the soggy, smushed, and then-delicious tuna salad sandwich.|
|Ahh, a better group photo.|
|FD2 Estes Park, July 2013: one of the best weeks of my life. Goddamn I love that organization and rock-climbing.|
Tuesday, August 6, 2013
As published on The Huffington Post
I watched a 33-year-old man sobbing. He stared at me, tears pooling in his eyes until they streamed down his cheeks and he looked away. He buried his face in his hands, his charcoal suit jacket and wedding ring restricting the body convulsions and flow of the tears. I stood frozen watching him, unable to look away or console or forget what he had just told me.
G. asked me to join him for a beer following his professional organization meeting where I had been the guest speaker that evening. I share my story of surviving two childhood cancers anytime audiences will have me. I hope everyone regardless of your medical history can relate to my story, but G. really connected, and our bar tab accelerated.
"I know we've never met, but I feel closer to you than my best friends," G. said. "I got cancer in my left testicle when I was a teenager, around the same age as you when you had your first cancer. Several years later it returned in my other testicle. I've been cancer-free for a long time, now.
"I've never told anyone this besides my wife. I refused to discuss it. I know I'm a stranger to you and this must seem really weird. It's just something about your speech that touched me, and talking with you now I feel a powerful urge to tell you.
"Because of cancer treatment I can no longer get an erection."
Sometimes people share things with me because I had cancer.
During a rehab session, my physical therapist told me about the time he nearly burned his house down as a kid. He would set the large field behind his house alight just to watch the fire trucks, but one time he left something smoldering in the rubber trashcan in the back of his house, and it started burning. "Somehow we noticed the huge flame and managed to contain the fire," he said as I lost count of my leg lifts to strengthen my hip flexors. "It could've been really disastrous."
G. provided me with graphic and personal details, while teaching me. I sensed that he needed to share so I listened, and later researched what he shared on my own.
G.'s dysfunction was slow and progressive so he could not pinpoint when it began. The first time it registered was during a date with his now-wife, after they'd been seeing each other for a few months. He even detailed for me the precise moment his dysfunction registered, which I think haunts him: they had each had a couple glasses of wine at a bar with a live jazz band. She reached for his hand and their fingers locked. He knew he would get to share her bed that night.
An erection begins in the brain. Mental stimulation cause nerves in the brain to tell nerves in the penile blood vessels to relax so that blood can flow freely. He imagined undressing her, button by button; her soft skin, warm to the touch.
Once blood flows into the penis, high pressure traps it within both corpora cavernosa. This causes the penis to expand and sustain an erection. G. would turn off the lights and take her under the sheets. He would explore her with the senses other than sight.
Then he stopped imagining because he felt nothing. Keep reading, here
Wednesday, July 24, 2013
I watched my family eat delicious food on our first night at the beach two weeks ago, also my first day off-diet. Fried everything, cornbread, hush puppies: the foods we permanent restrictors see in visions of heaven, awaiting our arrival on La-Z-Boy couches with live goat-pillows while Dumb and Dumber plays on repeat. I grew an immediate ache in my gut as I wondered if my lifelong decision to restrict was wastefully, abnormally, sufferingly incorrect.
Adult males and females are not meant to maintain mid-single- and mid-teen-digit body fat percentages, respectively. I have accomplished the feat several times, only to see my leanness slip away.
I slimmed down in preparation for my First Descents rock-climbing trip next week in Estes Park, Colorado, as my fundraising challenge. My goal was to reach about 7% body fat. Here are some observations from my nine-week challenge:
- I’m getting too old for this shit.
- I have an addictive personality.
- I love food.
- I must rededicate myself to exercise, as evident by a drop in my average beats-per-minute. Maybe I’ll just blame watching Homeland and Breaking Bad, which are too engrossing and cause me to stop cycling on my spin bike.
- Ain’t nobody got time to work out for two hours a day.
- I now need almond butter before bed so I can sleep (see #1 above).
- I now require weekly mini-cheats (see #1 above), which may be beneficial by spiking glucose and metabolism, but once I flip that food switch, I struggle keeping the cheats mini (see #2 above).
My dieting cycle seems to be six months off, two months on. Maintenance requires a severe and permanent lifestyle change which I have generally implemented during all my off-diet cycles, but each time I developed different loopholes, and each time I regained at least one pound per month.
I am hopeful I have turned a corner and can extend my off-diet to eight or 10 months. I now accept a consistent and small caloric deficit, while only occasionally eliminating the chains of restriction. Over the past two weeks I have felt more at peace with watching others eat heaven while I just barely participate.
Crafting a physique is a science: to gain muscle mass you need to eat more than you burn, but in order to maintain minimal body fat that extra amount must be precise. The protein/fat/carbohydrate ratio must also be precise. Ain’t nobody got time for that precision, so (at the moment) I accept the following order of priorities:
- Coke Zero
- La-Z-Boy couches
- Muscle bulk
My priorities are reinforced each time a gay man hits on me. Seriously ladies, do you not see where I live?
Lower abdominal veins, the hardest to visibly achieve = fitness challenge accomplished
Thursday, July 11, 2013
“It has an elevator,” Aunt FloJo had said in April, referring to her friend’s condo in Dupont Circle, my next housesitting residence.
“That’s good,” I said.
“No, I mean it has its own, dedicated elevator. You’re going to be very comfortable this summer.”
My Mansion Hopping continues—last week I moved into one of the most expensive condominium communities in Washington, D.C. Many people don’t understand the concept of housesitting, and if I haven’t lived it then I would be confused, too. “Who goes away for months at a time and lets you live in their home for free? How do you get these opportunities?” they ask.
“It’s because I’m Jewish,” I say, though the real reason is that my Aunt FloJo and Uncle Joker are gracious as all hell, have gracious friends, and create opportunities for me. They landed me the mother of Mansion Hops this time:
- 4.5 floors
- 24-hour security and fire-lit courtyard
- Viking oven and Sub-Zero refrigerator
- Creepy carousel horse (see video below); and
- A location where one female friend said, “If we met at a bar, all you’d have to say is ‘I live in Kalorama’ and I’d go back with you.”
Hence, my first problem: I’m barely around this summer due to several trips. I’ll just have to go out to bars and restaurants more while I’m here, dropping the “Kalorama” line everywhere. I’d love and usually prefer company, so if you want to then come hang out at the Mansion and surrounding establishments! However, I am prepared to explore as if this were a solo vacation, which goes outside my comfort zone and is a challenge I embrace.
If only I didn’t have a second problem: I seem to be far more desired by gay men than straight women. And did I mention I was in the epicenter of D.C.’s gay community? In fact, I am the King of Dupont Circle:
Thursday, July 4, 2013
Two of the four times I’ve walked into a women’s restroom had something to do with NoCommonSense, this time while in Hawaii for his wedding. Damn
you NoCommonSense for infecting me with your personality trait me for having always shared that personality trait with him.
I walked over to the buffet at the Waikiki Starlight Luau at the Hilton Hawaiian Village for a second helping, and saw that it was already closed. Blazed that my ability to carb-overload was stolen and not from the fire knife dancers, I detoured to the restroom. Down the long hall, I scanned the wall for the men’s restroom symbol at a two-sided entrance. I entered on the left.
There were no urinals, which I figured were on the right side of this apparently very large men’s restroom. The water conservationist in me was smothered by rage thanks to
NoCommonSense Hilton workers cleaning up the buffet early in order to get off work sooner, so I entered a stall. There was one other man pooping in a different stall.
While washing up, a mother and her young daughter entered the restroom. Some people just have no common sense, or are too young to read signs, I thought. They quickly exited upon seeing me.
I finished rinsing and grabbed a paper towel as the mother and daughter re-entered the men’s restroom and kept walking. I stared at them in the mirror, shocked by their gall, and then it hit me:
NoCommonSense has done it again I actually just peed in the women’s restroom. I passed two more women as I hightailed it out.
There is one activity left for me to do in there, which I’ll accomplish when
I’m around NoCommonSense again someone offers a grande blonde roast with sugar-free mocha to do it.
Wednesday, June 26, 2013
PingPongGirl and I sat in one of UVA’s libraries brainstorming titles for my book. I kept my writing a secret from most people, but she was one of my brightest friends and studied literature, so I had asked if she would edit it. I couldn’t pay her, but we did make a deal which I later described in an article for my university’s newspaper.
PingPongGirl circled the title “I’ve Still Got Both My Nuts” in her notebook which sat on the library table, between her coffee and my manuscript. She remained seated after that to study Russian literature. I left to neglect my schoolwork and complete my life’s greatest work. Naturally I used the same title for this blog when I began it months later.
The title demonstrated my writing’s raw edginess, and my openness no matter how disturbing or embarrassing the experience. PingPongGirl and I were unable to see that nobody would buy a book by that title; that my blog's title would lead to hits from internet searches like “I want your cock inside me my true story.” We lacked knowledge about brand management and target audiences.
The book’s title changed when I landed a publisher, but I kept “I’ve Still Got Both My Nuts” for this blog. I later added the subtitle “The Super Man Cancerslayer Blog” to correlate with my book’s superhero theme.
Now eight years later, I am letting go. This blog’s new title matches its URL: cancerslayerblog. I slayed cancer twice. Some of my stories are about slaying cancer. I speak about growing into young adulthood after having slayed cancer. I am beginning to understand branding, or at least the value of simplicity. Robots will soon crawl the internet and replace “I’ve Still Got Both My Nuts,” but it will live on in my heart (and in small writing under my new blog header).
To you wonderful readers who subscribe to my old blog feed: you will still receive my stories without having to do anything! And to you other wonderful readers who don’t subscribe but are considering it: check out my awesome new feed at http://feeds.feedburner.com/cancerslayerblog.
I am very grateful to you for reading my stories and following my life journey. I will continue trying to amuse and inspire you in different ways, including a special one later this year, though I can’t reveal any more than that.
Sincerely, your still-both-nutted friend,
Thursday, June 13, 2013
I walk like a penguin, I think, chuckling at my short stride. The pain in my hip is significant when I shift weight to my left leg. The pain ascends rapidly the further I step forward, so I shuffle. This sensation is not deep inside like the lightning strikes I felt when my tumor was growing long ago, but instead it shoots out towards my abductors.
I envision my pain as an iron plate, compacted by the burden of cancer, consuming the space formerly occupied by cancerous bone. This plate does not respect my orthopedic oncology surgeon's handiwork -- muscle stapled and taped to other muscle -- and is waiting to explode downward, like it is playing Don't Break the Ice against my soft tissue.
I think back on recent events to uncover the pain's cause...
Days ago I danced at a wedding. Historically I had been the loner watching the dance floor from afar, but this time I visited YouTube, where a smooth Asian gentleman taught me basic moves.
Mary was so wildly attractive that it slipped my mind to baby my left hip. How could that happen considering that my subconscious has always protected my hip even when intoxicated by alcohol, Benadryl or prescription narcotics?
Mary and I hopped around to Kool and the Gang. When the DJ switched to oldies, I wrapped my right arm around her lean waist and swung my hips, looking through her brown-rimmed glasses that matched her hair, wondering how she looked without her spectacles and other apparel. Her glistening red lips sang all the words, and then teased me for not knowing any.
I wish that smooth Asian gentleman was in my ear. I know he would suggest I take Mary to the bar between dancing. At the end of the night, he'd tell me to charm her into coming to my hotel instead of letting her vacillate. She was waiting for my persuasion, but I am incapable of acting in a way that feels un-gentlemanly.
I don't remember feeling pain the next morning when I slid off my bed and went down to the gym, where I contemplated measures to prevent another Mary from sliding away. Did my hip hurt the day after that? Yes, definitely, because I considered going on crutches, but I was with my family and didn't want them to know. Instead, I penguin-walked when no one was looking and masked the pain when they were around.
I crutched for the next three days. Simple movements caused explosions in my hip, so I kept my left leg limp. It is now the third night and I am lying in bed. When I wake up tomorrow I will take my first step on my left leg to test it. Keep reading, here
Friday, May 31, 2013
Since I reached 6 percent body fat last year, friends have asked for tips on how to lose weight. After I share the sacrifices and lifestyle changes necessary for the most efficient and maximal loss, they stop talking to me. To ensure I still have some friends left, instead of providing detailed tips here are my simplified weight-loss mistakes:
- Telling others you're on a "diet." Losing fat and keeping it off requires me to remain on a permanent "diet," which I might as well define as "permanent judgment and loss of friends." I'm better off proclaiming I actually enjoy eating broccoli.
- Saying you want to lose "weight" when what you really want to lose is "fat." Fellas, if your loss comes from muscle instead of fat then you'll still be soft. And ladies, despite what some of you have told me about fearing a muscular appearance, unless you rub against a testosterone-deficient cancer survivor's prescription steroid gel, you won't gain unattractive muscle. Having the strength to lift small objects is also useful.
- Trying fat-loss tricks or drugs, which probably only reduce caloric absorption by 10-15 percent. After I perform 90 seconds of air squats before a big meal, my friends move to another table. And then after downing three cups of coffee, I am incoherent and would rather not share the result of my subsequent peristalsis.
- Counting calories burned minus calories consumed. When I ride my spin bike to Homeland I get too engrossed to pedal, but "forget" to reduce my calories burned. I also pretend that 60 ounces of Coke Zero really does have zero calories. Keep reading, here.
Wednesday, May 22, 2013
On the trip I gained a new favorite hobby, self-discovery and stalwart friends. Afterward, someone posted on our group webpage daily and we were already planning for this year’s trip—called “FD2” for those who attended “FD1” the previous year.
There are still weekly posts on the group webpage. And at least half from my Moab FD1 will return for an FD2 adventure, though only a few others will be on my specific FD2 rock-climbing trip in Estes Park, Colorado, this July 28 through August 3. Life has gotten in the way of our continuous high. The amazing Lings is learning to live with her disease, Lil Wayne has too many new family members, and I suspect others have gotten what they needed out of First Descents.
I understand that feeling. Expecting my FD2 to be as magical as my FD1 would be as unfair as expecting The Ugly Truth’s sequel to be as horrid as the original. But I’m not done with First Descents: there’s still too much climbing left in me.
First Descents gets much of its funding from participants paying it forward. In order to provide first-time participants with a free trip, returning adventurers fundraise by starting a “challenge.” Most challenges are runs or bike races. That’s either because participants lack creativity or they have their bone structure intact.
My hipless skeleton prevents me from that type of challenge, so I’ll stick with what I excel at: getting ripped. I’ll be cutting fat from my body through exercise, determination and mostly suffering. Eliminating my fat makes me feel clean, which I’ve come to understand is one of my most powerful drivers. Cancer and poison and other filth don’t belong in me.
My challenge is to slim back down until my abdominal pinch using body fat calipers is 5 millimeters, or roughly 7% body fat. Right now I’m at 10 millimeters. Please consider contributing to First Descents as I suffer to reach this goal. You can contribute on my Team FD page here.
If you’re on the fence about contributing, then read my story or my friend Ripple’s story about how impactful First Descents is on our lives.
Saturday, May 11, 2013
Read this first: Brooklyn's Finest (Part I of II)
The next day we visited Brooklyn Boulders, a rock-climbing gym that my grade school friend, Lance Pinn, founded and owns. In high school Lance was suave with girls, passed advanced classes without trying and seemed born able to read people and business opportunities like I was born able to tolerate Adriamycin. After college and seeing an enormous market for climbing gyms, he and two partners collected the capital for Brooklyn Boulders.
I had emailed Lance two months ago about my 10-year cancer-free anniversary and how I wanted to celebrate at his gym. He immediately made arrangements for us. “What Lance says, goes. Lance is the man,” one of the gym employees told me.
Lance first escorted us to the Fairfield Inn & Suites across the street where he had negotiated for two rooms to be available to him indefinitely. “These guys are going to stop by to shower later this afternoon,” he told the front desk clerks.
Lance brought us to the hotel roof where we looked down on Prospect Park, Park Slope, Barclays Center and the public park across from his gym that Lance helped create as a member of the neighborhood recreational board. “Welcome to my town!” he said.
Lance gave us a tour of his rock-climbing gym, soon to be the largest in the country after a future expansion. His company is building several more, including one in Somerville, Massachusetts, where he returned an hour later. He came to Brooklyn for us.
Lank joined my group to climb, though he didn’t need to take the “Learn the Ropes” course Lance provided us. Lank began climbing in college at Virginia Tech, where I met him through mutual friends. When I rock-climb back home it is always with Lank. If not for having to focus as his belayer, I would gaze as he stretches for holds that he seems to create by mere friction with his rubber sole or finger chalk on the wall.
Lank and I went searching for routes, hoping our three amateur friends learned enough in “Learn the Ropes” not to kill one another while belaying. Given the same route “grade,” Brooklyn Boulders was far more difficult than Sportrock in Alexandria, Virginia, and offered unique routes that employees re-set daily.
My favorite was “Brooklyn Bridge,” the first route I’ve encountered where three walls meet. I experimented with different ways to get above the jut using the jug. One giant jug is all I need—unlike Lank’s grace, I climb using pull-up explosion, which is how I compensate for missing a left pelvis.
Facing the wall, I couldn’t reach the jug above me no matter which way I leaned. Bracing with my left hand on the adjacent wall, I reversed direction and felt for the jug with my right. I wasn’t in position to see it, but on the third try I touched it, latched on and pulled as the fire danced between the fibers of my forearm.
I made a video of my Brooklyn Bridge climb:
Exhausted, my friends and I departed for the hotel to shower and enjoy another of Lance’s gifts:
We completed my remaining requirements of a successful trip with additional friends including Lank's wife, Vina, Fiery and my literary agent; and bratwursts and pints at Radegast Hall & Biergarten.
As the clock ticks further away from my cancer journeys, I am touched that people in my life continue wanting to celebrate my health with me. Like I wrote two weeks ago in The Huffington Post: to many more climbs and celebrations and bratwursts.