Those who have ever been diagnosed with cancer know that there is no feeling in the world like the one that rushes in upon hearing that they have the dreaded disease. Earlier this year, Hillsborough High School boys basketball coach Ian Progin was on the receiving end of the shocking diagnosis.
Six months later, he prepares to return to the sidelines this season to coach the Raiders boys basketball team.
Progin was diagnosed in early May with brain cancer. After a few short weeks of treatment, Progin underwent surgery to remove the tumor in late May, causing him to miss the remainder of the 2010-11 school year.
Progin recalls being shocked at the time of his diagnosis, but never felt that the disease was something that he could not defeat.
“It was definitely a shock and a surprise to all of us, my family included,” Progin said. “To me, it was just like, ‘Let’s just get this thing out. The sooner we get it out, the sooner we can get to the next step.’”
Like anybody who is hit with such a life-changing diagnosis, Progin still had concerns. Particularly, it was difficult for him to watch many of his family members go through such a trying time, including his two children and wife of seven years.
“It was really hard for me to watch my family and friends, how they reacted to and handled the news,” Progin said.
In light of this, Progin stated that the support of his family and friends, as well as community members and members of the Hillsborough High School family, was a “humbling” experience through the ordeal. Progin stated that this support has allowed him to take stock of how much his contributions to the community as a guidance counselor and coach—but most importantly, as a man—have been appreciated.
“(The community was) just unbelievably supportive. You try to come up with the words to justify what people do for you, and you can’t do it,” Progin said. “’Thank You’ doesn’t do justice to what people have done for me and my family.”
Progin realizes that recovery from any form of cancer is a process, and that he still has a long way to go before he can say that his treatment is officially a thing of the past.
Currently, Progin still has to go for blood work every week to detect any recurrence, in addition to taking a chemotherapy pill for five days in a row every month and going for an MRI every two months to make sure that the cancer has not returned.
Although he is still on the road to complete recovery, Progin is happy that his life has begun to return to normal.
“I’m thankful that I’m in the position to work and coach full-time,” Progin said. “If I was in a position where I couldn’t do my job to the best of my ability, I wouldn’t do it.”
As the season begins and time goes on, Progin hopes that he can use his fight against cancer—and the lessons he’s learned—to teach his players, fellow coaches and anyone else who could use a helping hand a lesson in overcoming adversity. After all, this is a coach who knows a thing or two about being down, but not out.
“Stay positive, fight, believe and give it all you’ve got every time,” Progin said. “It’s easy to not always be at your best, but you’ve got to realize that you’re provided certain opportunities and you have to take advantage of them all the time.”