Inspiration can come from some unlikely places. For Terry Killman, who graduated last December with a degree in vocational-technical education, it came from an energetic 6-year-old named Eli.

Killman was diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukemia just a year into his degree program at PSU. The disease progressed quickly and eventually his oncologist told him that if he didn’t start aggressive treatment immediately, he could be dead within the week.

“We had to try something,” Killman said. “I wasn’t ready to go.”

One of the reasons Killman gives for being so determined to beat his disease is his grandson, Eli.

“Eli is important to me,” Killman said. “I’m raising him like my son, even though he’s my grandson. We’ve been pretty tight from the beginning.”

Killman said his doctors concluded that his only hope of a cure was through an adult stem cell transplant, but that required a bone marrow donor. Fortunately, his older brother, Vic, was a perfect match.

It’s been a long road to recovery for Killman, a 20-year Navy veteran. Some of his doctors even advised him to just drop out of school, but he persevered. Killman said his PSU professors gave him the support he needed to complete his degree.

Killman said overcoming the disease has given him a new perspective on life, and he makes sure he takes time for the important things, like fishing with Eli.

“My health is now good. We are working to build up my immune system, and finishing my degree is what I wanted to do,” Killman said.

And, he noted, he’s looking forward to lots more days fishing and just hanging out with Eli.