Graduation a poignant moment for cancer survivor

May 16, 2014

Adrian NiemitzAdrian Niemitz has been a cook, a bar tender, a musician and a blue-collar laborer throughout his life. He’s lived abroad and in various states. His most challenging job so far, however, has been fighting cancer.

About 11 months ago – midway through his American Junior Year experience at the University of Heidelberg in Heidelberg, Germany – Adrian began feeling ill. A biopsy and other tests revealed a tumor on his liver. Aided by the staff of the AJY program and some relatives living in Germany, he completed one round chemotherapy at a German hospital, followed by another round when he returned stateside.

An anthropology and German double major, Adrian rejoined his classmates on campus for the fall semester of his senior year, and was looking forward to graduation in May. Shortly before Christmas, he landed back in the hospital, this time for surgery to remove the tumor from his liver and now, his intestines.

His battle was not yet over. Just three months ago, Adrian was diagnosed with a brain tumor and underwent radiation treatment at the Cleveland Clinic. Although the cumulative effect of radiation can bring severe fatigue, among other side effects, Adrian feels good today.

“I’m just forging ahead,” he says.

Adrian Niemitz at Heidelberg graduationDuring his stay at the Cleveland Clinic, it was determined that Adrian had completed enough credits to meet graduation requirements. At that point, Campus Minister Paul Stark, who kept in touch with the adult learner, traveled to the clinic to present Adrian with his diploma.

With radiation treatments completed, Adrian took his diploma and returned to his home in Colorado. But he wanted to have the experience of graduating with his classmates and all of the pomp and circumstance that commencement brings.

Prior to the ceremony, Adrian mused, “It will be cool to walk across the stage again.”

On Commencement Day May 11, there he was, processing with his classmates from University Hall, down Greenfield Street, and into Seiberling Gymnasium. He got to have that moment when he received his diploma in person – along with his classmates – from President Rob Huntington. His mother, Mary, was in the audience, cheering him on.

Now that graduation’s behind him, the only place to look is forward. Adrian is currently preparing to take his GRE and plans to begin a graduate program in archaeology this fall.