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In Celebration Of Eric Ott

Bob Riter is the retired Executive Director of the Cancer Resource Center. His articles about living with cancer appeared regularly in the Ithaca Journal and on OncoLink. He can be reached at bobriter@gmail.com.

A collection of Bob’s columns, When Your Life is Touched by Cancer: Practical Advice and Insights for Patients, Professionals, and Those Who Care, is available in bookstores nationwide and through online retailers such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble. All royalties from the sale of the book come to the Cancer Resource Center.

The Rongovian Embassy in Trumansburg, NY was filled last Sunday afternoon with people who love music. More importantly, the Rongo was filled with people who love Eric Ott.

Eric is a well-known local musician who plays with the Yardvarks and the Lost Sailors.

He’s also dealing with advanced esophageal cancer.

On Sunday, it was clear that Eric is surrounded by love.

It was Eric’s idea to organize a benefit for the Cancer Resource Center of the Finger Lakes. That’s the kind of person he is – always giving.

When I walked through the room, I kept hearing snippets about Eric: “He’s the kindest person I know.” “He would help anyone.” “I’ve never heard him complain.”

These attributes are even more apparent because Eric is seriously ill. When you’re sick, most of us turn inward. Eric continues to look outward and touch those around him.

Although he’s obviously frail, he woke up early on Saturday to play with the Yardvarks at Hospicare’s Women Swimmin’ Event. If anyone had an excuse not to volunteer that morning, it was Eric.

His wife, Mary, told me that music is almost like breathing for Eric. Even when he’s not feeling well, playing music gives him joy.

There was a palpable poignancy in the air on Sunday. Most of us recognized the significance of the afternoon.

But it wasn’t sad. Instead, it was a joyous celebration that was made even sweeter because Eric was there to feel the love and to be embraced – quite literally – by his community.

If love could cure cancer, Eric would be cured.

Although we can’t always control what happens to us, we can control how we live our lives. Eric has led a wonderful life. And we love him.

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Click here to see all of Bob’s columns

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