TEAM NEIL'S ON WHEELS
By Larissa Ghiso, Neil's mother
For Neil Ghiso, it was a dream
come true. He had achieved one of his ultimate
goals, admission to Harvard Medical School.
We were so proud of him and so happy for him.
The future for my son seemed to be unlimited.
On November 1, 1997, nine months
before his graduation, Neil and a friend flew
to Ann Arbor to attend the University of Michigan
homecoming game. Shortly after the plane took
off, he experienced a severe seizure and lost
consciousness. When he came to, he saw the face
of a total stranger, whose compassionate and
concerned look made Neil realize that something
was terribly wrong. The director of the Karmanos
Cancer Institute, a distinguished doctor, happened
to be on board the plane and immediately rushed
to Neil's side to see what he could do to help.
In no uncertain terms he made it clear to Neil
and his friend that they were to skip the football
game and go immediately to the emergency room
of the University of Michigan Hospital. Once
there, Neil experienced another seizure. He
was 27 years old.
The MRI showed a large tumor
in his left frontal lobe, which turned out to
be an astrocytoma/oligodendroglioma. Four weeks
later, Neil underwent surgery. However, because
the tumor was so intermingled with healthy tissue,
only about 30% of it could be resected.
Now, four years later, Neil's
journey has had many ups and downs. There were
six more surgeries, countless seizures, memory
loss, radiation treatment and chemotherapy.
There have also been moments
of great joy and triumph. Neil was determined
to complete his five rotations, a very rigorous
course of training for the medical profession.
He also defended his thesis.
By June 2000, he had come so close to his goal
of completing all the graduation requirements
(only the neurology rotation remained) that
he was asked to participate in the commencement
ceremonies with his class. His classmates asked
him to be one of the student speakers for Harvard
His topic was: "An Unexpected
Lesson in Medicine: What I Learned as a Patient."
Everyone was spellbound in the audience and
some people were crying. When he finished, he
was given a standing ovation.
After this wonderful moment,
however, he received the disturbing news that
the tumor was starting to grow again. The neurology
rotation had to be postponed. By April 2001,
Neil incredibly mobilized all of his resources
and completed the rotation. The following June
he received his medical degree cum laude. He
also received the 2001 Humanism in Medicine
award from the Healthcare Foundation of New
Jersey, in recognition of his "compassion, empathy,
respect and cultural sensitivity in the delivery
of care to patients and their families."
Last May, Neil, his older brother
Alex and three good friends completed the 25-mile
Ride for Research. Wearing bright orange T-shirts,
the team proudly sported a logo, designed by
his sister-in-law, proclaiming that this is
Team "Neil's on Wheels."
We are so grateful to all those
who helped care for Neil during his extended
illness. Their care, love, dedication and expertise
will never be forgotten. All those friends,
classmates and family members who helped keep
his hope alive and his spirit up know that they
have helped to make his triumph possible.
Our best to you, Dr. Neil Samuel
Ghiso! You are our Hero!
Sadly, Neil lost his struggle
with his illness and passed away on February
Cycling for Life; The Brain
Tumor Society newsletter. Vol. 2, Issue 1