Wednesday, August 21, 2013

First Descents, Rock-Climbing & Frisbee Golf: A Picture Story

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:

Estes Park Rocky Mountains
Welcome to the Rocky Mountains, so overwhelming and humbling and spectacular.
First Descents lodge, Estes Park, Colorado
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.
First Descents instructor busted scalp
The FD staff and volunteers had arrived the day before us. My boy and one of the camp's lead staffers, Pedro, busted his scalp on the zipline (yes, seven-year-olds can grow mustaches) and the FD doctor, McSteamy, stitched Pedro using his hair. A "no zipline rule" was implemented thereafter.
Discussing how not to get caught on the zipline
Poison, the head chef, and I schemed when we would break the rule and use the zipline. We two rebels became fast friends.
Ziplining in Estes Park
Mission accomplished, caught red-handed.
Estes Park Rocky Mountains
The view from Overlook Ranch. And hey, worst-case is there's always nature as a bathroom.
Overlook Ranch, Estes park, frisbee golf course
It is up in the air whether we frisbee-golfed or rock-climbed more...
Throwing frisbees at Princess
...Seriously. I was one of the worst golfers at first, but I dropped my score from 57 to 43 in consecutive games on our last day. I'm confident I can eventually match McNuggets. I can match Pedro only if he busts his skull first. He's good.
First Descents SUV becomes a dance party
Pedro threw a dance party in his SUV wherever we went, thanks to Aimster the Gangster's playlist. McCreepy knows all the words to everything. I don't know about you, but he's feeling 22. I recorded him dancing to Taylor Swift like the maniac he is, but I either lost it or McHacker deleted it.
Benjamin Rubenstein rock-climbing in Estes Park
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.
Taking a break from rock-climbing to read Bossy Pants
KMac also doesn't mess around when it comes to reading. KMac ain't got no time to belay other climbers.
Benjamin Rubenstein rock-climbing in hula skirt in Estes Park
I climbed in a hula skirt, an award I earned. I didn't mind showing off what was under the skirt.
Butt push booster to begin rock-climbing route
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. 
Super hero cape while rock-climbing
I envy Dealer's actual cape and Superman impersonation.
Pumba mimicking the Lion King's Pumba
I completed every climb besides the 5.9+ route shown above, in part thanks to my most frequent belayer, Pumba.
Multi-pitch rock-climbing caribeeners and ropes
Pumba was the camp photog. She got artistic here, capturing the ropes on our "graduation day" multi-pitch, five-hour climb.
Showing off while repelling in Estes Park
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.
Benjamin Rubenstein and multi-pitch rock-climbing team in Nederland, CO
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).
Benjamin Rubenstein rock-climbing in Nederland, CO
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.
Benjamin Rubenstein overlooking Rocky Mountains in Nederland
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.
Benjamin Rubenstein and FD2 camp atop Boulder Canyon
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.
Benjamin Rubenstein and First Descents camp group photo
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.

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Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Unspoken: Cancer's Dehumanizing Late Effect

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

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