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 Medical School.

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 11, 2002.

Cycling for Life; The Brain Tumor Society newsletter. Vol. 2, Issue 1