Basketball manager rebounds from fight against rare cancer

People relentlessly try to see the glass half full whenever possible but few succeed like Dominic Cipressi. The CFHS junior has turned this old time adage into his lifestyle.

Using his characteristically upbeat and optimistic spirit, junior men’s basketball team manager Dominic Cipressi is recovering from a recently successful fight against a rare form of cancer.

Using his characteristically upbeat and optimistic spirit, junior men’s basketball team manager Dominic Cipressi is recovering from a recently successful fight against a rare form of cancer.

Most people will know “Dom” from his cheery face around the halls, his active involvement with Scouts or from his job as the student manager of the men’s basketball team. What is not as apparent, however, is that Cipressi is a cancer survivor.

In December of 2011, Cipressi’s freshman year, he discovered a lump located in his armpit that was causing him pain. Not thinking much of it, he kept going about his life until his mother forced him to pay a visit to the doctor. The doctor discovered that Cipressi’s blood cells were three quarters the regular size, meaning he was anemic, and sent him down to Iowa City for further evaluation.

Throughout the process of multiple doctor visits, Cipressi was still able to participate in basketball and be a part of a team that he loved.

In January of his sophomore year, Cipressi was tested at The University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics for internal bleeding, but nothing turned up in the test results to explain it. Instead, doctors discovered Cipressi was also suffering from a kidney malfunction but were unable to locate any kidney-related disease. This left the doctors dumbfounded as their patient had a golf ball size lump under his arm that seemed to be outsmarting some of the top pediatric health care physicians in the country.

He underwent a biopsy that turned out inconclusive and caused four months of bleeding, which led to a correctional surgery.

Approaching two years of confusion and frustration, Cipressi made the trip up to one of the most well known and prestigious medical practices in the world, Mayo Clinic located in Rochester, Minn. After re-doing every test, it became apparent that a second biopsy, without mishap and bleeding, would be necessary.

A tumor was discovered. He had argio matoid fibrous histiocytoma, a form of cancer so rare that there are less than 100 documented cases known to man. “My parents cried and cried, but I kept calm. Everyone I told was freaking out, but I’ve had worse,” Cipressi said.

The case is so rare that there had never been a case study done on it before. Cipressi agreed to be the first case study to help further research this incredibly rare disease.

A week later, the week of homecoming, Cipressi returned to have the tumor removed, which they did successfully. Three months of physical therapy followed as he returned to full strength. “The surgeries really wore me out more than the cancer did,” he said.

Adding to his battle against cancer was a battle he wasn’t able to fight, a battle on the hardwood with his Cedar Falls Tiger teammates. After surgery and rehab there was no way any doctor was going to let him play even if he was somehow able to muster up the strength.

That’s when the idea sprang to become the team’s manager. “I enjoy basketball, but it’s not just the game,” Cipressi said. “I love being a part of the team more than anything, and I love being around so many great guys and building great friendships.”

Even with missing nearly two months of school with his surgeries and going under the knife for the final time just one week before the start of basketball, Cipressi stayed upbeat and positive. “It was really a wake up call. The physical therapy helped me get back in shape and helped me realize that I needed to start working out again.”

He even had to cheer up his friends and family at times. “Life can be unexpected, but you can make it through anything,” he said.

Dominic Cipressi certainly has.

 

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