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Best-Selling Author Takes McGraw Symposium on Cancer Journey

2010 cancer symposiumBruce Feiler had walked many paths in his career as a best-selling author, but a routine medical check up in 2008 sent him and his family down a road he'd never imagined.

Feiler, whose legs had taken him through rural Japan, across 10,000 miles retracing the Five Books of Moses and even on the circus circuit, was diagnosed with a rare bone cancer in his left femur.  Suddenly, he could not walk.

Two years later, he’s back on his feet, cancer free since December 2008 and sharing the details of his cancer journey with people including those attending UVMC’s Bill and Ruth McGraw Cancer Awareness Symposium on June 10 in Troy.

In the midst of a whirlwind of doctor visits and treatment discussions, Feiler feared most the future of his 3-year-old identical twin daughters, if he should die.

His solution was forming a council of dads, inviting six friends to be his “voice” to pass on life lessons as the girls moved through various stages of their lives.

Although the council may never be called into official service, Feiler said the men who have grown with his family will always be an important part of his life and those of his wife, Linda, and daughters Eden and Tybee.

The council, he said, “gives us a feeling of security, of love and of life.”

The council concept has not only been successful for his family, but in the weeks since the late April release of his book – “The Council of Dads: My Daughters, My Illness, and the Men Who Could Be Me” – served as model for others looking for support systems.

Feiler said he’s heard from single parents forming a council of dads or moms and from parents of teens, who think other adults from their lives might help their children through often difficult growth years. 

He recently met with military dads interested in pursuing the council of dads concept because of their frequent and, at times extended, absences from home. Brochures on starting a council of dads are being placed at military bases around the world as part of the new National Fatherhood Initiative, he said.

Feiler encouraged people to consider starting their own council. “If you ever feel alone, I hope you will come on this journey with me,” he said. “I think you will be moved to reach out to your family.”

In its 10th year, UVMC’s McGraw Cancer Awareness Symposium was named in memory of Miami County residents Bill and Ruth McGraw by their children, William J. McGraw III, Karen McGraw and Chris Grillot.

Bill and Karen McGraw remembered the strength of their parents as they dealt with their cancers.

Ruth McGraw had breast cancer at age 29 and again at 34, balancing tasks as a wife, mother and radiation treatment patient in the 1950s, they recalled. Their father’s cancers came in later years, when he first shared that he had feared losing his wife with three children at home.

Despite the medical challenges, the McGraws said their parents lived life to the fullest.  “Mom had a spirit of life,” Karen McGraw said.

The symposium is sponsored by the UVMC Cancer Care Center and the UVMC Foundation with a gift from the McGraw Family Fund of The Troy Foundation and grants from the UVMC Foundation and The Troy Foundation.