I’ve Been Arrogant for 15 Years and Now I Atone

It is Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. In synagogue I recited one of the most important prayers Jews read each year called viddui, or the confession. Al chet she-cha-tanu l’fanecha. For the sin we have committed against you.

There are many sins. One stood out to me.

“. . .The sin we have committed against You by our arrogance. . .

For all these sins, O God of mercy, forgive us, pardon us, grant us atonement!”

* * * * *

I stood at my Cancerslayer table at CureFest on the National Mall and talked about my Cancer-Slaying Super Man books, which I displayed along with information on how to purchase them. “My memoirs are about how I survived childhood cancer twice by believing I was superhuman,” I said to interested visitors.


Benjamin Rubenstein in front of his Cancerslayer table at CureFest on Sunday, Sept. 20, on the National Mall. CureFest is an annual event uniting the childhood cancer community, the general public, leading pediatric oncologists and congressional leaders.

I distributed stickers of my Instagram character named Cancerslayer to the sticker-hungry children who visited my table. “Cancerslayer fights illness by day and bad guys by night!”

My table was wedged between two nonprofits that raise awareness and research money for childhood cancer. The two nonprofits’ founders were present to represent their organizations. The three of us talked to each other and also to cancer victims and their family members who attended CureFest and visited our tables. Each nonprofit founder sat and listened to me repeatedly share a concept that I have embraced since my first diagnosis almost exactly 15 years ago: Cancerslayer is the attitude that has helped me survive and thrive.

Each of the founders lost a child to cancer. No amount of Cancerslayer attitude, kale juice or anything else will bring them back or likely helped them stand a chance against the supreme king of illness. In the end, genetics and randomness tend to win out.

The Cancerslayer attitude is brash and arrogant. It helped me when cancer consumed my adolescence. It helps me as a healthy young adult swimming through our complex society.

I think my position will always be wedged between two groups, just like my table at CureFest. One group of people needs Cancerslayer because it uplifts them, or maybe fuels the anger they’ve been awaiting to overpower their sadness. Rage, I’ve found, is a supreme motivator.

The other group of people, possibly including Paul and Sandy who sat at the tables next to mine, resent Cancerslayer. I ask those individuals to please forgive me for this sin of arrogance. Then, please forgive me again because it is a sin that I will always commit to help myself and others keep fighting.

Benjamin writes and speaks about health and feeling like a superhuman. Tell him how arrogant he is on Twitter and Facebook. But first you should probably read his books and cancerslayerblog

6 replies
  1. Conrad Holtslag
    Conrad Holtslag says:

    Stay strong. God gives us many characteristics. One of the strongest is determination. It was God’s determination that was manifest in Moses which led our people out of bondage. God’s gift to us as a people IS determination. Sometimes it is confused with arrogance, that empty selfish brashness that is also in each of us.
    You are a man of determination, a shining example of one who chose not to be defeated by the bondage of cancer. You decided to be a liberator not a slave, and so you are rewarded with “life” and a lasting message – like Moses

  2. Melissa
    Melissa says:

    I appreciate your comments, Ben. For those, like us, who have lost family members to cancer, especially young family members, the premise that one’s attitude made all of the difference between life and death is disheartening. I especially dislike the message of “be positive” and you will win out. As if someone who lacks stoicism, strength or cheer is somehow at fault if they succumb to the illness. But I have never interpreted Cancerslayer in quite that way. I don’t hear blame or self aggrandizement in your message. And those who are truly arrogant would never take the time to so lovingly assist others, as you have done.


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