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June 14, 2007 - Image 30

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2007-06-14

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Defying Cancer


Miles Levin's graduation speech accents hope and helping others.

ressed in a flowing graduation
gown, Cranbrook-Kingswood
senior Miles Levin, 18,
addressed his peers eloquently last week.
His heartfelt words moved the commence-
ment audience profoundly as he spoke of
his battle against rhabdomyosarcoma, an
extremely rare and highly fatal form of
cancer that affects connective tissues.
Few would have imagined, including
Miles, that he would have lived to stand
before his class as senior farewell speaker
on June 8 at Christ Church Cranbrook in
Bloomfield Hills.
Sharing the podium with Miles was
Cranbrook-Kingswood alumnus and for-
mer anchor of ABC World News Tonight
Bob Woodruff. Also coping with sudden
hardship, Woodruff faced a long and
tenuous recovery from near-fatal wounds
inflicted by a roadside bomb in Iraq.
Woodruff discussed in his commence-
ment address similarities in his and Miles'
life-altering experiences and his admira-
tion for Miles' perseverance, strength and
wisdom in his fight with cancer. Both
found solace and strength in family and
spirit during their difficult paths.
Miles' story began two years ago when
he went to the hospital because of mild
belly pain. Since his diagnosis, his story
has evolved into a two-year fight with
a disease with a dismal mortality rate.
A gifted writer — perhaps taking after
his recently deceased grandmother, Marj
Jackson Levin, who wrote for the Detroit
News and Style magazine — Miles began
his CarePages.com blog,"Levinstory,"
which chronicles the challenges, along
with brighter moments, of the past two
His words there evoke profound emo-
tion and a sense of compassion. He tells of
the uncertainty of living on the fringes of
life and death and of the darkest moments
he faces during treatment. However, his
story also illuminates the joy he still man-
ages to find in living and of the powerful
foundation of his family and friends. His
parents, Nancy and Jon Levin, and sister,
Nina, 16, provide an unshakable spiritual
bedrock for Miles.
Since contacted by various print, radio
and television media outlets, includ-
ing CNN's Anderson Cooper, Miles has
become an icon for inspiration and hope,
especially for young people with terminal


June 14 s 2007

Cranbrook-Kingswood senior Miles Levin speaks at commencent.

illness. His words have touched people
around the globe, from South Korea to
Tanzania to Bloomfield Hills. Posts on his
blog offer up tales and words of hope that
those in similar positions can connect to
worldwide and draw support.
Members of Miles' community, specifi-
cally, Cranbrook-Kingswood students,
have united to promote awareness and
fund cancer research, holding sales of both
baked goods and brightly colored T-shirts.
Circulating around the Metropolitan
Detroit community is Miles' personal
mantra, carried on the backs of the shirts:
"Keep fighting, stop struggling."
Accompanying Miles, along with his
parents, was his pediatric oncologist and
active member of the local Jewish commu-
nity, Dr. Leonard Wexler. According to Dr.
Wexler,"Religion is a universal aspect" of

any difficult journey. "Each morning when
I get up and pray, I find myself thanking
God for putting my soul back in my body,"
the doctor says, recognizing the fragility
and beauty of life.
As the old adage goes, life is not fair. In
his commencement speech, Miles spoke
of the importance of recognizing when
one has received the "little talked about"
long end of the stick and the obligations
associated with privilege and blessing.
Miles lectured on the importance of using
one's own blessings and gifts, which he
described as "accidental luck',' to help oth-
ers. Specifically, the obligation of "privi-
leged" Cranbrook-Kingswood students
to assist those who were not fortunate
enough to have the inherent intellect or
wealth to attend such a high-caliber pre-
paratory school.

Miles, several months ago, spoke pub-
licly of his hopes to make it to his high
school graduation. With this goal fulfilled
and an improved prognosis, Miles is
aiming high toward a potential future.
Referencing Cranbrook-Kingswood's
famed archer statue, he says, "It's not
about the hardness of the arrow, or
strength of the bow, but the target you
decide to shoot at, and its ultimate impact
in victory"

By Jessica Singer and Jordan Birnholtz, both

16, Cranbrook-Kingswood, Bloomfield Hills

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