UConn Magazine: Living With Chronic Illness

Gerontology professor Keith Bellizzi makes the study of chronic illness, death, and dying a spiritually uplifting one

Keith Bellizzi.

Professor Keith Bellizzi (Peter Morenus / UConn Photo).

A year after his second bout with thyroid cancer, Keith Bellizzi stands tall in his classroom, vigorous and slightly tanned after visiting one of his daughters at college in Florida. He gives the sense, when talking to you, that he really sees you. His capacity for empathy is tangible — the first thing you notice about him.

The Human Development and Family Sciences (HDFS) professor of gerontology who teaches this Living with Chronic Illness class lives with chronic illness himself. His first bout arrived at age 24, in the form of testicular cancer. Six months later he found out he had an unrelated cancer in his kidney. A decade later, a CT scan after a mountain bike accident revealed stage 3 thyroid cancer. And last year he dealt with a recurrence of that.

The illness has not defined his life, says Bellizzi, but it has shaped it.

Read on for more.