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U-M CCC - Progress Newsletter Summer 2003 Online

Best-selling Author and Cancer Survivor Teams with U-M Docs to Brighten Holidays for Young Patients

Children battling cancer at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center received a little cheer prior to the holidays from a very special source -- a best-selling children's author who was treated for cancer at the U-M, along with the cancer team that treated him.

During the week of Dec. 23, more than 60 children who had to interrupt their holiday celebrations for chemotherapy sessions at the Cancer Center received copies of Stranger in the Woods, the number one children's picture book on the New York Times' December 15 bestseller list, along with gift bags containing its companion video and CD, and stuffed animals.

The gifts were made possible by the U-M skin cancer team, led by Timothy Johnson, M.D. The team has successfully treated Stranger co-author and wildlife photographer Carl Sams for cancer for nearly a decade.

"Carl had told me he had written this book, but I didn't know how big a hit it was until my daughter read it at school and raved about it, and I saw it on the bestseller list," says Johnson. "The team and I felt it would make a great holiday present for kids who are going through so much."

Johnson and the 25 doctors, nurses and others who care for U-M skin cancer patients in the Cutaneous Oncology Program brought the presents to the pediatric chemotherapy area of the U-M Comprehensive Cancer Center on December 23.

Sams credits the U-M skin cancer team with saving his life, and that of a close family member, by catching and removing several skin cancer lesions. "I want to do this," he says of his at-cost donation to the holiday gift effort. "They've caught everything I've had very early, and I'm grateful."

Sams and his wife, Jean Stoick, photographed and wrote Stranger in 1999 as a way to show children the magic of nature in winter. It's a heartwarming story of the reaction of woodland animals to a snowman that appears after a winter storm.

After it was first released in Michigan and Ohio, the authors donated thousands of dollars in proceeds to children's charities. But its national release launched it into the stratosphere of children's holiday books, where it has sold over 800,000 copies to date. Stranger has appeared on the New York Times list twice before, in December 2001 and 2000, but never reached the top until now. It was listed at number two for the Dec. 22 list. It is also used extensively in elementary schools to teach about nature.

A video to accompany the book was released recently, along with its soundtrack. Both were made by Robert and Laura Sams, Carl Sams'cousins.

Together, the book, movie and soundtrack have earned 19 awards, including the 2002 Early Childhood News Awards, the 2001 International Reading Association Award and the Ben Franklin Award. The movie was recently one of four finalists in the 2002 Wildscreen Panda Awards in Britain. The story mesmerized kids. The story-behind-the-story inspires us all. Author and cancer survivor Carl Sams reads to pediatric patients at the Cancer Center.



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This article is part of the Cancer Center's News Archive, and is listed here for historical purposes.

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