Despite ongoing medical issues, Toni Kuhns continues to play the sport she loves.
A center midfielder and forward, Kuhns is in her fourth season with the Westerville Central High School girls soccer team and is contributing despite battling symptoms that began in September 2015 when she developed non-stop headaches combined with dizziness and nausea.
Tests ruled out vertigo and Meniere's disease, which is a disorder of the inner ear, along with other possibilities.
Specialists first believed it was daily persistent headaches, which mimic the symptoms of a migraine headache.
Not satisfied with the diagnosis, Kuhns' parents, Todd and Bobbie, requested an MRI knowing their daughter's previous battles with concussions.
The MRI revealed a slow growing but operable brain tumor, which resulted in surgery Dec. 15, 2015, three days before her 16th birthday. The tumor was benign and the family thought the worst had come to an end for Toni, who was able to communicate after the surgery and needed only a few days before she again was able to form full sentences. She was released from the hospital Dec. 18 and celebrated her birthday with family and friends.
Although the surgery was successful, Kuhns still battles headaches 24 hours a day, seven days a week, along with fatigue and nausea.
Despite her continued struggles, she has not lost faith.
"I'm sure I was praying about why do I have to go through certain things, or why am I having to deal with all these symptoms and pain, but I believe everything happens for a reason," she said. "You learn to take each moment like that's your last moment. You never know when your last good day is your last good day and that's regardless of whether it's for you or a loved one."
She has been rechecked for additional tumors, but tests were negative.
The family has visited numerous specialists in the Midwest and on the East Coast, with doctors unable to determine the cause.
In addition to the non-stop headaches, Kuhns started a battle shortly after the surgery with intractable hiccups, which her parents say resemble a diaphragm spasm.
Kuhns is now working with an integrative physician along with specialists from Boston who deal with a holistic approach, hoping to find improvement. The family said the holistic approach has helped remedy the hiccups, but the headaches and fatigue continue.
Still, Kuhns pushes forward with the help of soccer. She is in her fourth season as a captain for the Warhawks, and although games and practices worsen the symptoms, she is determined to cap her prep career on the field.
"Soccer was the one thing that got me back into pushing out of my discomfort because without soccer and sports I'd probably be sitting at home and not really doing much," Kuhns said.
Before her medical issues began, Kuhns had hoped to play in college. However, those dreams have ended knowing the physical demand to compete at the next level.
"Even though she is far from being back to the same physical level prior to surgery, Toni's love for soccer and determination to continue on is amazing," her mother said. "Toni would rather face the painful side effect rather than sit on the sidelines. Toni knows what it means to push your limits, to never give up, keep your chin up, celebrate the good days and embrace the trials."
Kuhns played basketball at Central during her freshman year, but has missed the past two seasons. She said it's unlikely she'll play this winter, but plans to support the team from the bench.
She plans on returning for her senior season with the track and field team, competing in the shot put. She also has competed in the discus, but the spinning in the approach leads to dizziness.
Kuhns is considering pursuing a medical degree with hopes of someday specializing in oncology. She has a 4.3 GPA and is a two-year member of the National Honor Society.
She credits her parents, along with family, friends, teachers and coaches, for their support during her ordeal.
"Words can't describe how much I'm grateful for my family, friends and God, along with the school and the staff and my teachers, my counselors, players and coaches and the list goes on," she said.
Central was 0-5-4 overall and 0-1 in the OCC-Buckeye Division before playing Olentangy Orange on Sept. 19. All five losses were by one goal.
The Warhawks began league play with a 1-0 loss to Westerville North on Sept. 11.
Boys soccer team
opens league with win
The boys soccer team opened OCC-Buckeye play with a 2-1 win over North on Sept. 12.
The Warhawks then played Worthington Kilbourne to a scoreless tie Sept. 14 and were 4-1-2 overall and 1-0 in the league before playing Orange on Sept. 19.
Brandon Boerger and Michael Nguyen scored against North.
Boys golf team
The boys golf team finished third in the OCC-Buckeye at 12-8, behind Olentangy Liberty (20-0) and Olentangy (14-6) and ahead of Orange (10-10), North (4-16) and Westerville South (0-20).
The Warhawks finished third (316) in the fourth and final round of the league tournament Sept. 13 at Darby Creek behind first-place Liberty (302).
Joshua Qian led Central with a 76.
Girls golf team
The girls golf team finished third in the OCC-Buckeye at 12-8, behind Orange (19-1) and Liberty (17-3) and ahead of Olentangy (8-12), North (4-16) and South (0-20).
The Warhawks finished third (354) in the fourth and final round of league play Sept. 12 at Westchester behind first-place Orange (290).
Kelly Linnabary led Central with a 77.
Below are the coming schedules for the Central cross country, boys golf, girls golf, boys soccer, girls soccer, girls tennis and girls volleyball teams:
Sept. 23 -- Saturday Night Lights at Centerville
Sept. 23 -- Wedgewood Showcase at Wedgewood
Sept. 26 -- Westerville North and Westerville South at Medallion
Sept. 25 -- North at Royal American
Sept. 21 -- At Grove City
*Sept. 26 -- Home vs. Olentangy
Sept. 21 -- Home vs. Pickerington Central
*Sept. 26 -- At Olentangy
Sept. 23 -- Kim Shepherd Doubles Classic at Hilliard Davidson
Sept. 26 -- At Thomas Worthington
Sept. 27 -- Hartley at Ohio Dominican
*Sept. 26 -- Home vs. North. The Warhawks defeated the Warriors 25-21, 22-25, 25-13, 15-25, 17-15 on Sept. 5.