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Author Mitch Albom Featured at Annual Cancer Awareness Symposium

10/12 MAlbomPeople’s obsession with time can be a plus, if they realize how precious that time is, best selling author Mitch Albom told those attending Upper Valley Medical Center’s 12th annual Bill and Ruth McGraw Cancer Awareness Symposium.

More than 550 people attended the Oct. 4 symposium at Tippecanoe High School.

Albom is the New York Times best selling author of works that began with the non-fiction “Tuesdays with Morrie.” The 1997 book tells of sportswriter Albom’s reunion with his dying college sociology professor, and the life lessons learned beyond Morrie Schwartz’s classroom.

Time spent with Morrie changed his approach to life from running and answering sports questions tossed by people as he hurried by to stopping and listening to people and their often amazing stories, Albom said.

“It is a blessing. Everywhere, in any crowd, I know people are dealing with an illness … taking care of a sick one. Human beings are just amazing at what they can do … what they can put up with,” he said.

Lessons he has learned from listening were a key in the topic of his most recent best seller, “The Time Keeper.”

“I realized how infatuated everyone is with time,” Albom said, asking if people knew how many times a day they look at their watch.

In the book, released in September, he creates the story of Father Time, a character that his research found didn’t have a story behind him. In the book, the man becomes so obsessed with time that he forgets to live.

From the lessons he learned from Morrie and all those who have shared stories with him since, Albom said he’s discovered why life is limited.

“The reason that life doesn’t go on forever is this beautiful, tragic, ironic arithmetic that God has created to force us to realize that every day is precious. If cancer doesn’t teach us that, I don’t know what does,” he said.

The limitation forces people to make choices daily on how they’ll spend their time. Those who want to live on will do so in the hearts and minds of others with acts of kindness and sharing, not how much money they have accumulated or attaining top ranking on “every big list,” Albom said.

The biggest lesson he’s learned, he said, is simply “Follow your heart … It will not lead you astray.”

Bill McGraw, son of symposium honorees Bill and Ruth McGraw, said his parents’ battles with cancer – five times between them, surviving them all – led to the family’s support of the symposium. Because of their acute awareness of cancer and the proactive approach when it hit home, their three children were able to experience “many decades of their presence,” McGraw said.

The symposium advocating cancer awareness “brings us great hope and great joy,” McGraw said.

The symposium was sponsored by the UVMC Foundation and the UVMC Cancer Care Center and made possible by a gift from the McGraw Family fund of the Troy Foundation and grant from the UVMC Foundation.

Tom Parker, UVMC President and CEO, said about 500 new cases of cancer are treated each year at the UVMC Cancer Care Center. For more information on the UVMC Foundation, call (937) 440-7541. For more information on the Cancer Care Center, call (937) 440-4820 or log on to www.UVMC.com.

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