CRC is special for Giffin

WHEELING — During the course of his 33 years as a basketball official, Donnie Giffin has seen and worked his fair share of big games.

Many of them, however, run together when you consider the sheer volume of how many that encompasses.

One game that Giffin will certainly never forget was Friday night’s Cancer Research Classic game between Orlando Christian Prep and IMG Academy.

And that had nothing to do with a particular call, the players involved, the crowd size or anything of the sort. Quite simply, it was simply the cause.

The Cancer Research Classic, though it brings some of the nation’s top prep basketball talent to the Ohio Valley, is also used as a vehicle to promote men’s health. And it’s director, Dr. Gregory Merrick, also oversees the Schiffler Cancer Center at Wheeling Hospital.

All of that took on even more meaning for Giffin after he was diagnosed with prostate cancer last spring. Since then, a rigorous treatment, involving 48 radiation treatments.

“When they said I had cancer time stood still,” Giffin said. “To this day, I can remember where I was when the call came.”

After shaking off the initial shock, Giffin made a quick decision.

“I wasn’ going to let (cancer) define me,” Giffin said.

Giffin, who turned 50 years old in 2017, was simply going through some routine testing in April when a PSA blood test returned a reading of 4.6.

“At my young age, that number got me referred to to a urologist,” Giffin recalled.

After that meeting, and another testing, Giffin was referred to Dr. Merrick, whom he had met — though fairly informally — during his CRC officiating assignments.

“I knew from the first time I met Doc that Wheeling Hospital and the Schiffler Cancer Center were the right place for me to try to fight this,” Giffin said.

A procedure in late June produced the results that no one ever wants to hear … Giffin had cancer that would require treatment.

“I had an outpatient surgery in early July and then on July 10 — when the results of the surgery were available — Doc called and told me,” Giffin said. “I met with him in the next couple of days and we planned out my treatments.”

Along with his officiating, Giffin is also an assistant football coach at St. Clairsville. But, again, he wasn’t going to allow to cancer run his life.

“My first treatment was the Monday before the first game of the season,” Giffin said.

Giffin’s schedule consisted of daily treatments, testing and a daily follow up.

“I went every day at 12:45 p.m.,” Giffin said. “Football was tough this year, but I did not miss much work or practice.”

Fast forwarding to the present, Giffin handled all of the treatments well and his cancer is in remission. He has his final testing scheduled for later this month.

“God has a plan for everyone,” Giffin said. “I am thankful that I was able to cross paths with Doc Merrick and his staff.”

When Giffin began the treatments, Merrick, who is one of the world’s leading oncologists, had little to no doubt that Giffin would be back on the court officiating by the time basketball season rolled around.

“He told me in July that I would be officiating in the CRC,” Giffin laughed. “I made sure I would be in shape to officiate this weekend. All of the credit for that goes to Doc and his staff.”

Giffin, who has worked nine boys and five girls state tournaments as well as 25 regionals in Ohio, treated the CRC assignment as “the final leg of a triathlon.”

From his initial diagnosis, through the treatments to being back on the court, it was quite a journey. His family, including his wife, Lisa, and son, Joel were both at the game Friday to watch Giffin ‘cross the finish line’ of his triathlon.

“My wife had breast cancer five years ago and was treated at Schiffler by Dr. Pollock and her treatment was radiation, so having seen her go through it really provided a solid foundation of what to expect. Plus, her and my son’s support obviously was very instrumental during the whole experience.

“I could talk for hours about this, and I always try to fly under the radar. But, I can’t say enough how wonderful Doc Merrick, his staff and all of the people at Wheeling Hospital were. They’re wonderful people who made this process painless and stress free.”