DUBLIN, Ohio (WCMH) — It was going to be the kind of senior season athletes dream about. Dublin Coffman’s Aidan Dring was second-team all-league as a junior and was being recruited to play college basketball. Then, less than three months after he turned 18, Aidan’s senior year took a terrifying turn.
Aidan started feeling dizzy and nauseous in early August and was diagnosed with vertigo after a CAT scan came back negative. As Aidan and his family were leaving for a recruiting trip, his life changed forever.
“I was so excited to go on this trip, this visit,” Aidan said.
Driving to Allegheny College — a Division III school in Meadville, Pennsylvania, about an hour east of Cleveland — Aidan was thinking about his future.
”Going back to the hospital it was tough. It was really tough,” he said.
The Drings never made it out of Central Ohio.
“Turning around that day was hard because that was the realization something was very wrong,” Aidans’ mom, Jennifer, said.
Vertigo was annoying. This was unimaginable.
“When we were in the hospital they said it doesn’t look as clear as they thought it was and they said it was a tumor, it’s going to have to be surgically removed,” Aidan said.
“It’s like every worst nightmare has come true,” Jennifer said.”I looked at Aidan and I said I’m going to cry cause that’s what I do but we’re OK.”
Major brain surgery six days later removed a large cancerous tumor near Aidan’s brain stem.
It was his parent’s 21st wedding anniversary.
“They were still in the middle of surgery, but [the surgeon] came out and said how well it was going and his exact words were, ‘He’ll never know I was in there,’” Jennifer said. “I stare at Aidan all the time trying to see if I see if anything is off, and there’s never been any indication that he’s had anything other than the big old zipper down the back of his head.”
The nine-hour surgery was a success, and the recovery has been grueling.
Starting Oct. 23, Aidan endured 33 straight days of radiation at Ohio State’s James Cancer Hospital. And he continued to show up at practice.
“Getting the energy to lace the shoes up and come out here was tough. Toward the end was the worst probably the last week or two but once I was out here I was fine,” Aidan said.
He completed radiation the day before Thanksgiving and, six days later, started Coffman’s first game of the season.
“That was amazing. The strength it took day after day five days a week, can’t even imagine,” Coffman coach Jamey Collins said. “It’s something that I’ve never seen in my 20-plus years of doing this and his determination, it was inspiring.”
Aidan’s fight inspired people from all across Ohio, including coaches Jeff Boals of Ohio University and Chris Holtmann of Ohio State.
“We’re thinking and praying for you as you continue to fight and battle and compete against cancer,” Holtmann said in a video message to Aidan. “I look forward to seeing you in person and meeting face to face sometime OK? Talk to you soon, Aidan. Take care.”
Aidan’s played in most of Coffman’s games this season and is close to getting back to 100% physically and mentally.
“It’s been everything. It’s what I wanted,” Aidan said. ”I wasn’t sure if I was going to get the normal senior year, senior season but being back it’s been great. It’s been all I wanted it to be.”
Aidan has MRIs of his brain and spine once every three months, and because of the type of tumor he had, there’s no timeline for when he’ll be considered cancer-free. He was finally able to take his official visit to Allegheny College in November to meet with coach Bob Simmons and is looking forward to taking Holtmann up on his offer of coming to an Ohio State game.