LOUISVILLE KY (WAVE) - They are words that every parent dreads hearing, that is if their nightmares are that dark.
"We were 11 years out when I got the news that there was something suspicious on his MRI," said Debbie Marasa.
Her son, Dominic Holly, had another health battle to face.
"From birth it was a stroke, cancer, the brain tumor," Dominic remembers.
For mom, the latest diagnosis brought tears to her eyes, "Awful, you're gonna make me cry, it's a terrible feeling."
It was January of his junior year at Waggener High School, and he was headed back into the hospital.
"January 7 was the day that I got the MRI, and that was in the morning, and then like an hour later, they called my mom and told me I need to go Kosair right away and pack my bags because I'm going to have brain surgery that day," Dominic said.
According to the doctors, the tumor was a result of the radiation treatment Dominic underwent 11 years earlier, to fight Hodgkin's Lymphoma.
A three-sport athlete at Waggener - football, wrestling and track and field - appeared to be his rear view mirror as he steadied himself for his next fight.
Dominic reflected on the moment he received the news.
"It was just, it was more of a shocker cause I just thought it was normal headaches, and then they showed me the MRI of like, this big brain tumor on my brain stem, and so I was just. At that point I didn't care about football, I just said, I don't care if I play anymore, I just want to live."
There were expected complications.
Waggener head coach Jordan Johnson assumed Dominic would not be playing his senior season.
"We had told his mom and conversations with him that we'd let him be a part, let him be around and do as much as we could, but knew that it was probably not gonna happen and probably wouldn't play, never dreamed that he'd come back and play," he said.
"I did not want to tell him no, but there were days when I said, maybe you need to think about this, because the doctors didn't really want him to play either. but he said, it's what I want to do," Debbie remembered.
"I think it was three or four days post op that I made the visit down there to hospital to see him and his first words to me were, "Coach are you talking to the doctors, when can I get back to play? I want to be ready for my senior year football season," said Waggener athletic director James Dumstorf. "Of course in my mind, I'm thinking, son, you just had your brain opened up, and you want to talk about playing football."
That was in January of 2015, and then somehow, someway, just 8 months later, he was back in uniform.
"Every time I go to the doctor, they think I'm crazy," Dominic said.
A starter for the Wildcats on the offensive and defensive line.
"In a month it started to show, everything started coming back and you knew that he was a player. He's by far probably our best offensive lineman," Johnson says.
Win or lose on Friday nights, Dominic has a different appreciation for being right in the middle of this battle.
"It's really everything, the atmosphere, the fans, being with my teammates, everything," he said.
As for mom, she can now focus her energy on cheering Dominic on in a contest that isn't life or death.
"I love it, I love it. It's exciting," she said. "He starts, he's out there, he's still fighting. He gets passed, he runs, he makes his plays, he does what he's supposed to do. I love it!"
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