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Young blogger loses battle with cancer

  • Story Highlights
  • Miles Levin, whose blog was read by thousands, died Sunday at 18
  • Had battled alveolar rhabdomyosarcoma since 2005
  • His witty, optimistic writing captured his enjoyment of life in the face of death
  • Next Article in Health »
By Rose Arce
CNN
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NEW YORK (CNN) -- Miles Levin was determined to have his say in life, even with cancer ravaging his young body.

art.miles.cnn.jpg.jpg

Miles Levin wrote that cancer and the fear of death could expand your heart and mind.

So when he died Sunday, six days before his 19th birthday, he had blogged a lifetime of thoughts and dreams, words that somehow pierced through cyberspace and moved tens of thousands of readers to respond.

Miles blogged on the Web site of Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, Michigan.

He isn't the only person to have written about a dying man's journey, but his wit and wisdom and choice of words, captured the imagination of his readers.

His story was circulated well beyond the world of cancer patients and was told by mass media including the Detroit News and CNN.

His wisdom was sought by parents of dying children, those recovering from the brink of death, even ordinary people captivated by his enjoyment of life in the face of death.

In announcing his death Sunday afternoon, his family wrote: "Miles went from a boy-man to a man-boy. At a cost that would knock your socks off, Miles still managed to pack a wallop. He could not and would not be held back ... from living life to the fullest."Video Remembering Miles' gifts »

He launched his blog in 2005 simply welcoming new readers and telling them he'd been stricken by a pediatric cancer called alveolar rhabdomyosarcoma, a cancer that strangles the muscle tissues.

He declared that his motto would be simply: "It's always something."

And it was. He got sick and then better and then sick again and still managed to navigate the milestones of adolescence: keeping up in school, a first serious girlfriend, college applications, prom.

He became a little famous and laughed at himself. He wrote about the value of life and somehow acquired an almost supernatural ability to appreciate small pleasures such as a sunny day and the presence of a loving family.

Memorial Fund

The "UJF Miles Levin Fund," a tax-exempt fund, has been established to support efforts to combat pediatric cancer and allow the Levin family to work toward new directions in patient care.

UJF - Miles Alpern Levin Fund
P.O. Box 2030
Bloomfield Hills, MI 48303
Attn: Susie Feldman

Messages of condolence may be mailed to his family, Nancy, Jon and Nina Levin

1768 Shaker Heights Drive
Bloomfield Hills, MI 48304

Or posted on Miles' blog, which is hosted at www.carepages.com. To see the full blog, register, and then in the page search field, type LevinStory

This notion that cancer and the fear of death could expand your heart and mind was adopted by readers as far away as Asia and South America.

He declared that perhaps he'd been put on Earth to show people how to die of rhabdomyosarcoma with grace.

When he was too sick to write, his mother, Nancy, chimed in: "The boy Miles was in June of '05 was sweet, innocent, disorganized and ungrounded ("earth to Miles"). The man that Miles is today is clear, focused, heart centered, and purposeful.

"It was cancer that intervened. That deadly disease carried the power of transmutation, and Miles accepted the offer."

She quit her full-time job as a psychotherapist to tend to him.

The Sarcoma Foundation, which advocates for better treatment of soft-tissue cancers such as his, awarded him its 2008 Leadership in Courage Award a year early.

Predicting he wouldn't be around to receive it, they taped his acceptance speech.

A few months ago, knowing his high school graduation was probably his last milestone, he wrote: "I can rest assured that even if I succumb to the rogue cells, I will leave behind a legacy of victory.

"Dying is not what scares me; it's dying having had no impact. I know a lot of eyes are watching me suffer; and -- win or lose -- this is my time for impact."

He did have an impact. Fifteen-thousand bloggers were responding monthly this summer.

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In the end, they mostly sent him God's blessing. And they spoke of positive things like seeing the brightly shining stars on summer nights, the beauty of the will to survive, simple things that make you laugh, and the need to use words to soften the hardest of times.

The funeral will be private. A public memorial service at Miles' high school, the Cranbrook School in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, is planned for November. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

Rose Arce is a senior producer with CNN.

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