Monday, July 7, 2014

Recovering from my superman complex

As published on reimagine

You have a tumor,” my mother told me. I was 16 years old. I didn’t cry that day, but I did force tears the day after. I was alone in a small basement room, yet the sobbing humiliated me. I vowed to never cry again. I decided I would become superhuman.

I received treatment at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Clinical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, for Ewing’s sarcoma, a rare type of bone cancer. I would often compare myself to other patients on the pediatric floor. Besides our identical hairless appearance and disease, we had nothing in common. Some of them would call the poison “cheemy” to make it seem less frightening and grumble about needle pricks. I learned not to wince. They are sick, I would tell myself. I am not. Cancer will forever change them; I won’t let cancer affect me. And in this way my delusion flourished.

I soon learned how to turn off my emotions as if they were connected to a digital switch. I did this by feeling shame when experiencing certain feelings like sadness, and sinful when exhibiting them. When my nurse told me that she’d never seen a patient recover from vincristine, Adriamycin and Cytoxan (also known as VAC) chemo cycles as quickly as I did, my delusion grew to the extent that it took on a life of its own.

But being superhuman required more sacrifices and restrictions on my humanity. Keep reading, here.


Dad said...

Inspiring and thoughtful story. Thank you for sharing it with others so that they can learn to cope with devastating diseases like you did.

Benjamin Rubenstein said...

Thanks, Dad, people seemed to enjoy this one more than my others.