Last April, a determined 19-year-old was standing in a crowd of fans at a Bruce Springsteen concert. The teen turned to his father and said, “I’m going to shake his hand,” when the teen’s favorite song “Thunder Road” began to play.
The young man began making his way through hundreds of people at Value City Arena in Columbus.
“It was like the sea parted and he walked right up and shook his hand. Hundreds of people in front of him and he shook (Springsteen’s) hand,” Medina resident Thomas Kiousis said.
Collin’s father shared stories after his son’s death Thursday from complications related to colon cancer. Collin, a 2015 Medina High School graduate, was 20.
“If he could dream it, it would happen,” Kiousis said of Collin.
Collin’s determination to meet challenges in life began at birth. He needed to have surgery at 3 weeks old. As he grew, the father said, Collin never wasted any time.
“He never had an idle moment. He was a very active kid.”
Trying every activity he could find from sports to music, Collin enjoyed being part of a team.
Through years of work in the film and theater industry, Thomas Kiousis helped Collin meet people and ultimately get jobs on films, including “Fast and Furious 8” which was shot in Northeast Ohio.
“It was amazing because he was working during chemo,” Kiousis said, remembering Collin’s diagnosis two years ago.
Collin didn’t want to let the crew down, so he would even sweep the area for the crew.
Only 20 cases a year
In 2014, Collin began experiencing abdominal pain and problems. He rarely complained, Kiousis said. One night, he sat up with his son as they “waffled back and forth (about) going to the ER.”
They eventually went to the hospital.
A doctor found that Collin’s appendix had ruptured, scabbed over and sealed itself.
“He was in a lot more pain than he showed,” Kiousis said.
The father said if he had known how serious it was, he would have taken Collin sooner.
A surgeon at Akron Children’s Hospital said that Collin’s appendix was in the worst condition he had ever seen, and he sent cultures to a lab for tests.
The cultures came back with a diagnosis: a rare type of cancer — pseudomyxoma peritonei.
“Collin’s cancer is so rare that only 20 cases are diagnosed a year in the country. There really isn’t a cure,” he said.
Kiousis said the news was difficult to accept but he and his wife, Elizabeth, began clinging to the idea there was hope for their only child.
“It was crushing but you still have a thread of optimism,” he said.
Kiousis said the family contacted multiple doctors nationwide but many turned them down because the disease is rare.
Finally, they found a surgeon at the University of Pittsburgh who developed a plan. Collin endured an 18-hour surgery in January of 2015 during which his nonessential organs were removed.
But in May, the cancer had returned.
Thinking of others
As the family coped with Collin’s diagnosis, a donation of money came their way.
Collin, his parents and two friends went on a snowboarding trip for a weekend.
During that time, an idea led to the creation of the nonprofit Collin Cares — Cure Cancer help other people with illnesses, Kiousis said.
A board was created, made up of Collin’s parents, an aunt and a few other people close to Collin.
The board now will be run by Elizabeth Kiousis and her sister, distance runner Connie Gardner of Akron.
Last Wednesday, the day before Collin died, Connie ran a race and for the last mile, she carried Collin’s photo.
Kiousis said Collin watched the event on Facebook Live, and while he didn’t have energy, he knew what his aunt was doing.
The memory of Collin’s thoughtfulness makes his father proud.
After high school, he enrolled at the University of Akron as a business student. But after his medical diagnosis, he switched majors and was accepted into a pre-medical program. Collin thought of becoming an oncologist to help others with illnesses.
Thinking about decisions Collin made like that have helped the Kiousises and Collin’s girlfriend, Hayden Cory.
Kiousis said his wife has been “incredibly strong.”
“We’re devastated only because there was some point a few months ago we realized we weren’t going to win this and we began to enjoy things day to day,” Kiousis said.
“The realization sets in. Her (Elizabeth’s) strength to push through it to hold the family together, it’s not easy,” he said.
Kiousis said Hayden and her family will continue to help with the nonprofit. “They’re a constant source of inspiration to help with the fund as well as family support,” he said.
Kiousis said he is thankful for the 20 years he and his wife had with their son.
“I’ve never seen someone with the amount of courage Collin had. He was amazing.”
A memorial service for Collin Kiousis, 20, who died of cancer Thursday, will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday at the Performing Arts Center, 851 Weymouth Road, Medina. The public is invited and fellowship time will follow immediately afterward in the lobby. Donations are being accepted to the nonprofit Collin Cares — Cure Cancer fund. Thomas Kiousis said information is available at First National Bank locations. Checks may be written to Collin Cares — Cure Cancer.
Contact reporter Ashley Fox at (330) 721-4048 or firstname.lastname@example.org.