As the Miami Heat finished the regular season as the best team in the Eastern Conference and were just one game away from returning to the NBA Finals for the second time in three seasons, head coach Erik Spoelstra had to deal with some devastating personal news.
Back in March, Spoelstra missed a game against the Brooklyn Nets “due to a medical procedure on one of his two sons,” but no further details were given. However, on Friday, July 22, Spoelstra’s wife Nikki Sapp opened up to Spoelstra in a moving Instagram post about what happened to their eldest son Santiago, 4.
She captioned the post with the keyword Nicklaus Children’s Hospital: “He had an unexpected surgery the day after his fourth birthday. invagination A mass was found. ‘Benign’, I thought to myself. It must be benign.
“A week later he was diagnosed with Burkitt’s lymphoma. In the days, weeks, and months that followed, he survived the chemotherapy (and thrived).”
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As defined by Cedars Sinai, “Burkitt’s lymphoma is a rare, rapidly growing form of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL)” that occurs most commonly in boys aged 5 to 10 years. “It’s a type of cancer that starts in the white blood cells in the lymphatic system. The lymphatic system is part of the immune system. It helps fight disease and infection. The lymphatic system also helps balance fluids in different parts of the body.”
Luckily, the story of the Spoelstras has a happy ending. “He was… and still is… so brave. He didn’t lose his joy. So many friends and loved ones made sure none of us did,” Nikki wrote. “Yesterday our big boy got to ring the bell at Nicklaus Hospital and the gratitude I feel is overwhelming. REMISSION.”
“My family and I are incredibly grateful to his paediatricians, the surgeons, the doctors, the nurses, the entire Child Life team and everyone at Nicklaus who took care of our boy… but also our family. There were many tears but these special people all made sure there were lots of smiles and all the love and support going around. There really aren’t enough words. Simply… THANK YOU 🤍.”
the knowledge The podcast host admits she’s still processing the last few months. “One day I want to open up more about this and have a necessary and meaningful dialogue around the issue of childhood cancer and what it has meant to me to be a parent in this situation. Right now I’m just grateful.”
Nikki, 35, a former dancer for The Heat, married Spoelstra, 51, in 2016. Together they have two children, Santiago, who was born in March 2018, and Dante, who was born in December 2019. A few weeks after the Heat lost Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals, Ms. Spoelstra announced on Instagram that they would soon be a family of five.
She captioned the baby announcement: “Midway through with lots to celebrate 🎈 Excited to announce a new addition to our family arriving this fall! #momof3.” The next day, Nikki revealed the baby’s gender. “Good morning! IT’S A GIRL!” She wrote.
While Mrs. Spoelstra doesn’t typically sport-related her Instagram posts, she made an exception during the Heat’s win-or-go-home Game 6 vs. the Celtics. On her Instagram Stories, she posted a selfie with her dog on the couch and wrote, “I hate these games in general #angst.”
While Heat star Jimmy Butler put in an incredible performance, recording 45 points with nine rebounds and eight assists and remaining 2:06 in the fourth quarter, the game was still tied 99-99.
Nikki then shared another update on her Instagram stories. Dipping an Oreo cookie in a glass of milk, she captioned the photo, “I don’t stress about eating.”
On Saturday morning, Nikki proudly donned a black “CULTURE” hat and put a huge smile on her face, much like how many from Heat Nation woke up after remembering Miami forced a Game 7.
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