RENO, NV. (KOLO) Galena high school junior Ian Gilligan has had a storybook start to his high school golfing career.
"The two regional championships, they're pretty awesome," said Gilligan. "And I hope that I'll be able to get the four-peat, which would be sweet."
Gilligan won the individual northern title in each of his first two seasons at Galena, but what he battled in-between was a more daunting challenge. Gilligan was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer called anaplastic lymphoma kinase (ALK)-negative large cell lymphoma last year. It's something extremely rare for kids, with less than a hundred of them ever diagnosed with this type of the disease.
"They had to find a treatment, and it delayed treatment by weeks," said his father, Grant Gilligan. "You could just hear the seconds going by in that period before the treatment started, and I got frustrated. And I had a couple tough conversations with the doctor. Guys, we got to get going."
The doctors were able to find a study out of Europe that details some of the kids that have been affected by this particular cancer, which helped lead to a treatment. He was in-and-out of the hospital for six months, undergoing multiple surgeries and chemotherapy.
"Being able to have golf as a thing to help me get through it was extremely important," admitted Gilligan. And it got me motivated to go and play outside with them, play some golf; just have fun. Which is extremely important because I didn't really want to go outside a lot of times. Kind of just sit inside."
His father took a year off of work to be there for anything, including getting Ian up and moving.
"The main thing is the positive attitude keeps the physical body up, active, getting out," added his father. "Depression tends to make you withdrawal, go to bed, lay around. It's more of the physical aspect of making your body work."
Eventually he returned to school, re-joined the golf team, and was once again one of the best high school golfers in northern Nevada. He's is now in remission, and is focused on helping Galena win the team titles, as well as earning a scholarship for college. He is being recruited by some of the best college golf teams in the country.
"It's a pretty cool time to be able to talk to all of these college coaches," added Gilligan. "It's nice to have a lot more time to be able to put into my game and school and focus on that, since before in the hospital I wasn't able to. Kind of thinking back to where I was a year ago, it's inspiring and it keeps me going."
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