When my daughter learned she would have to endure still more intensive chemotherapy for her leukemia, a tear welled up in her eye. She would now be homebound at least two more months, and attending high school for any of her senior year looked more remote than ever.
But she stopped herself, and her steely resolve returned. “If Ben can go through everything he’s had to deal with,” she said, “I can do this.” Amy has kept her commitment, with flying colors. Her parents could not be more proud. Ben’s parents undoubtedly feel the same way.
Ben is a cancer survivor nonpareil and author of Twice: How I Became a Cancer-Slaying Super Man Before I Turned 21. My daughter met Ben at the Children’s National Medical Center clinic, where they both go for treatment, and later read his book. An online blurb succinctly describes his ordeal and ultimate victory – and helps explain why the book had such a profound impact on her.
“At 16, when most high school juniors are worried about getting a driver’s license, getting a date, getting on the tennis team or getting into college – Ben Rubenstein got Cancer. But relying on the pop culture icon Superman, he took on harrowing surgeries, transplants, chemical therapies and inner struggles, to beat Cancer – twice. Like his offbeat and irreverent blog, ‘I've Still Got Both My Nuts: A True Cancer Blog,’ the compelling, behind-the-scenes story related in his book combines the author’s unique blend of humor, honesty and an indefatigable attitude that helped him become a two-time cancer survivor.”
Actually, the book’s title is a bit misleading. If Ben had waited just a little longer, he could have written Thrice – because he is now winning his third battle with a life-threatening disease.
Number One was bone cancer: Ewing’s sarcoma. The first tipoff was sharp pain, deep inside his hip, during a tennis match. The cancer eventually destroyed most of his left ilium, which was removed surgically, causing his femur to push up into scar tissue, instead of his hip socket, and leaving his left leg several inches shorter than his right. (A lift in his shoe compensates.) But numerous chemotherapy and radiation treatments eventually beat the cancer.
Number Two was myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS): a bone marrow genetic abnormality and cancer that impairs the number and quality of blood-forming cells. Left untreated, the disease can evolve into acute myelogenous leukemia (AML). Ben and his family opted for a bone marrow transplant that carried a 30% chance of living. Once again, his Super Man attitude helped get him through.
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