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Curitore wins fight of his life

Will Curitore never did what he was supposed to do.

He didn’t quit the football and wrestling teams during his senior year of high school when he didn’t make the varsity teams.

He fought every day for the respect of teammates and coaches.

He didn’t shy away from his first interview working for the BG News or 88.1 FM WBGU. He accepted the challenge and succeeded.

And his penchant for defying odds is perhaps the biggest reason why he’s alive today.

Curitore is currently undergoing chemotherapy for the Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma found on his brain in late November and massive stomach ulcers resulting from treatments that have occupied his life for five months.

How has he survived?

“He’s a fighter,” his father, Stephen, said. “He just wouldn’t go. We had doctors tell us every day that they weren’t sure if Will was going to make it. He was dead four times, essentially. The doctors could not believe how much he fought. … We watched [former North Carolina State basketball coach] Jimmy Valvano’s speech at the ESPYs a few days ago, where he said, ‘Don’t give up, don’t ever give up.’ Will truly embodies that.

“He is a miracle.”

The young Curitore said it’s hard to believe, still.

“There was no warning for any of this,” he said. “I don’t remember much until about a month into my treatment. … It’s amazing sometimes, because every thing the doctors have said would happen to me — originally, that I would die, and now that I’m going to lose all my hair and get really sick from the treatments — hasn’t happened.”

What Happened

Curitore, from Hudson, enrolled at the University in the fall and quickly got involved with student media on campus. But, one night, things didn’t go as planned. Assigned to cover BG’s hockey game for The BG News on a November Friday night, Curitore had a seizure in his hallway in McDonald North. Curitore’s parents rushed to be by his side at Wood County Hospital that night, and when he was released the next day, took him home to his house in Hudson. After being home for three days, he seizured again, and was taken to Akron General Hospital for evaluation.

Still not knowing what was wrong with him, doctors at AGH performed a craniotomy, a removal of a piece of the brain to relieve pressure.

But the problems didn’t stop. Curitore continued to suffer from bad headaches, dizziness and high fevers (as high as 105 degrees), and his heart and respiratory rates were spiking. So when he was transferred to Cleveland’s University Hospital, Curitore’s parents expected the worst — and got it: Brain cancer.

“This was amazingly hard on our whole family, because Will was never really sick,” Stephen said. “Seeing him rushed by on a cart with two pints of blood being poured into him is hard to watch. It was hard for his brothers [Eric, 16, and Stephen, 17], too, even though they didn’t really know or understand what was happening.”

The “sickest patient they had ever seen”

Once in University’s Intensive Care Unit, doctors attempted to begin chemotherapy, but Curitore would not stabilize. And the news got worse. Doctors induced a coma in order to preserve some of his body functions. Unfortunately, everything done to attempt to stop the lymphoma in its initial tracks did even more damage. Curitore had massive ulcers in his stomach from the stress placed on it. He was rushed into surgery at 2 a.m. on Christmas morning.

“Through all of this, the doctors kept telling us they weren’t sure he was going to make it,” Will’s mother, Karen, said. “At one point, the head doctor in the ICU spoke to us about a ‘Do Not Resuscitate.’ They said after the stomach surgery that if he lives seven days after, he’d be fine. … But on the seventh day, he had a massive hemorrhage in the stomach, causing even further damage. … Everyone we saw — brain surgeons, infectious disease specialists — everyone told us he was the sickest patient they had ever seen.”

Will said he didn’t remember much of the ordeal.

“I don’t remember a whole lot,” he said. “I remember waking up and my mom telling me some of the crazy stuff that had happened to me. After hearing all of that, it made me proud that I lived through it all.”

The doctors finally stabilized Curitore, and were able to seal off a main artery in his stomach, stopping the bleeding from which he had suffered.

During Will’s battle, a family member contacted the New York Yankees, of whom Curitore is a die-hard fan.

“They sent us a box of stuff, and after being in a coma for 42 days, Will asked for one thing –his Yankees jersey,” his father said.

After Curitore turned the corner, it was up the long slope of treatment and recovery. After his stomach problems were taken care of, he was moved to the oncology floor of University Hospital to begin treatments but he couldn’t yet handle the chemotherapy.

So, he was moved to a rehabilitation facility to begin physical and occupational therapy. He hadn’t stood up in over two months, so he had to build the strength in his legs.

Curitore went home during the last week of January after 96 days in the hospital, and it’s been nothing but progress since then.

He began chemotherapy March 7, and goes three days a month for four months; he completed the second round two weeks ago. The lymphoma on his brain has been in remission for four weeks, according to his mother.

“Everything doctors told us would happen to Will has not happened,” she said. “It’s been amazing to go through this whole ordeal.”

Andy Barch, the director at WBGU, said Will’s attitude and enthusiasm were astounding.

“No other rookie in our organization took as much initiative as Will,” he said. “This type of recovery takes some guts to get through, and in that regard, I’m not surprised at all to hear that Will was able to fight through this adversity.”

Now

According to his mother, the normally stubborn and independent 18-year old has had to adjust to having most of his independence stripped — for the time being.

“He can’t drive for a while, and has to take literally 30 pills a day,” she said. “So he’s had to adjust to taking orders.”

“I drink so much water it’s not even funny,” Will said.

With the ordeal nearly completely behind them, Curitore’s family has a full slate planned for their son. He will travel with his father to Puerto Rico, and Will will attend a game at Wrigley Field later in the summer between the Cubs and the Yankees, of course.

After the summer of fun, Curitore will attend Kent State University in the fall, and in an ideal situation, would return to Bowling Green in the spring, after he proves to his mother he can handle a full academic load.

“We just want to make sure he can handle classes before sending him off to live on his own again,” she said.

But don’t think for a second Will might switch his allegiance when the Falcons and Flashes play.

“It’s BG all the way,” he said.

Let’s just hope Kent treats him well.

He might just take on the whole campus if they don’t.

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