Cancer patient is an inspiration to GVSU grads
By Rick WilsonThe Grand Rapids Press
GRAND RAPIDS -- After being diagnosed with a rare form of cancer this fall, Brian Ciluffo concedes wondering whether he would fulfill his dream of graduating from college.
After fluid was removed from around his heart, Ciluffo spent much of October hospitalized. He could barely get out of bed, weakened by chemotherapy treatments for anaplastic t-cell lymphoma.
On Saturday, though, he realized his hopes.
After doctors delayed medical treatments for the 22-year-old Grandville native, he graduated with about 950 others in Grand Valley State University's winter commencement at Van Andel Arena.
"When they first told me I had cancer, my goal went from getting A's to just surviving," said Ciluffo, who got a bachelor's degree in hospitality and tourism management, "and there were times in the hospital when I didn't think I was going to make it.
"Sometimes, you think you're all alone. But, after a while, I knew I had the majority of the Grand Valley campus behind me."
His fraternity brothers from Sigma Phi Epsilon shaved their heads in a show of support when he first came home from the hospital. They have held several benefits for Ciluffo, including one Friday night raising about $2,500 for his family for costs not covered by insurance.
The support from GVSU and the fraternity have helped Ciluffo's parents, Tony and Cindy Ciluffo, weather his struggle to beat cancer.
"There are a lot of people who get sick. Brian's just a normal person who's going through a little glitch in his life," Tony Ciluffo said.
"If anybody should get credit, it's the students and the faculty at the university. Their support has just been unreal."
Brian, who turns 23 on Wednesday, will resume chemotherapy Monday. He said his doctors have every expectation the cancer will go into remission.
His girlfriend, Allison Zinn, said Ciluffo has become an inspiration to others with his outlook and determination.
"Now, he's to the point he just looks so positive," she said. "There's a glow in him that wasn't there a month ago, and you just know he's going to beat it."