Rabbi, Dad, Cancer Survivor | Ben’s Story

Rabbi, Dad, Cancer Survivor | Ben’s Story


What does it mean to choose life? Choosing life is about choosing hope. I was 39 years old with three young children just having been diagnosed with cancer. And it’s not lost on me that I’m here now. Penn Medicine saved my life. How’s it going, great? I think so. Are we having fun? On picture day? To be a rabbi is a bit of an adventure every day. You’re there with people both in the greatest of moments but you also have the great honor of being with people during moments of real hardship. Shabbat Shalom my friend, how are you? I think I’ve brought my own voice to Judaism Please join us as we sing together: Bim Bom It goes as follows Bim…Bom See? You got it! There’s one foot for me clearly planted in tradition but I also have an appreciation for the modern world. He’s a good mentor. He’s, like, relatable. We both love Hamilton Yeah.
That’s our bond. I’m a dad, I’m a fan of Philly sports I just also happen to be a rabbi. Buddy I’ll see ya later. About a year and a half ago I noticed
that there was this lump on my neck. I went to my family doctor and he said right away I’m very concerned about this. after really a matter one or two doctors visits it was clear this was going to be some form of cancer. I was young, healthy I had a career and a home and a family and to think that absolutely everything was going to maybe change drastically I was stunned. My daughter looked at me and she asked me if I was dying. The fact that she was sort of carrying around that fear, that hit me pretty hard. I went from this place of being so emotional to a place of action. I made the decision that I was going to Penn. The fact that we had this world-renowned institute right down the street There were no other options for me as I saw it. Dr. Landsburg was my oncologist. He literally drew a map of, here’s where you are here’s what’s going on in your body and here’s how we’re going to treat it. What was so reassuring was to sort of reduce it very specifically to a game plan. and to have this demeanor of calm and expertise. That conversation, I remember while clearly on the one hand it was really difficult was also incredibly reassuring. It was really hard for me as the rabbi
to now be the patient I’m programmed at this point to be the one who supports and answers questions and holds the hand. So to have the table turned a little bit I almost didn’t know what to do with that. He’s a loved man. We all knew that his inner strength and the strength of his family and the strength of this place would be behind him. When you’re in the hospital bed
and it’s the middle of the night you can feel incredibly alone. So to know that there was sort of this army of support behind me that was incredibly moving to me. People truly cared. I heard from people that I hadn’t spoken to in 30 years people I had grown up with. Their support, the love that I felt from this congregation and my circle of friends and the doctors and my family that pulled me along quite a bit. When treatment came to an end there was a scan that confirmed the fact that I was cancer free. It’s like, what just happened? Is it over? What just happened? You sort of try to come to terms with the fact that cancer is now a thing of the past for you. You beat it. It’s over. Shabbat shalom again everybody. I think that having cancer made me a better rabbi. Hopefully more understanding, more compassionate. It’s a story of family and that we have to look out for each other, we have to help each other. I just turned 40. 40 is the new 30, maybe. I have a lot that I still intend to do. I hope to run in some big important races continue to lead this community. I hope to be a good dad. There are places all over the world that I still want to see. I think back sometimes
to the nurses and the doctors at Penn and the way in which they treated me as if I was the only patient in the building knowing that that’s how they treated everybody. I think that type of care saved my life. And it was affirming to be reminded of the fact that when we come together through faith, through community through this sort of inner strength that we all have we can overcome.