Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra has been the team's fearless leader since 2008 and has had many successes and challenges in his career. However, some of the toughest courts to battle on are the ones that don't involve a basketball.
In July of 2022, Erik's wife, Nikki Spoelstra, announced on Instagram that their oldest child, Santiago, was diagnosed with Burkitt lymphoma, a form of non-Hodgkin lymphoma. This form of cancer is rare but fast growing and affects the central nervous system, bowel, kidneys, etc., according to the Lymphoma Research Foundation.
A day after his fourth birthday, Santiago was admitted into the hospital where the doctors found a tumor, much to the utter dread of his family. After praying for it to be benign, to no avail, the son underwent months of chemotherapy at the Nicklaus Children's Hospital.
"He was... and continues to be.. so brave," Nikki's Instagram post reads. "He did not lose his joy. So many friends and loved ones made sure none of us did."
However, after Santiago completed the treatment, Nikki happily announced that her son was in remission.
"Yesterday, our big boy got to ring the bell in the cancer wing at Nicklaus, and the gratitude I feel is overwhelming. REMISSION," Nikki's post reads.
The Spoelstra family has expressed gratitude for the love, support and prayers from everyone around them. This challenge is one that no parent would ever want to go through, but one in which I'm sure the Spoelstra family is overjoyed to come out victorious.
Since the treatment, Santiago and his family have been seen smiling and enjoying life. The Spoelstras also welcomed their newest addition to the family on Sept. 27, 2022 with a baby girl, Ruby Grace, their third child.
The family has been celebrating all of the holidays and creating new memories together. Erik, Nikki, Santiago, Dante and Ruby Grace all dressed up as characters from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles this past October, the first of many more Halloweens between them all.
Santiago is still going out with his family, and getting to participate in all the excitement that comes with being a kid.
On March 26, Nikki posted on the one year anniversary since discovering the tumor. She said how grateful she was for the people in her life, and encouraged parents to trust themselves and their child when they feel something is wrong.
"I'm posting this as a Mother to encourage ALL parents to listen to your guts and intuitions," the post reads. "I knew something was off well before the symptoms became severe. And our incredible pediatricians helped us find solutions."
This form of cancer has a high long-term survival rate when caught early, such as the case for Erik and Nikki's son.
Despite the challenges and the hardships that everyone in the family went through during this time, it seems they have only grown closer as a family. They are appreciating every moment and celebrating the little things in life. Erik is still coaching and Nikki is very active on social media, where she shares all about her experiences as a mom and life advice. Meanwhile, Santiago seems to be doing well and thriving post-treatment.
As the Jimmy Butler-led Heat try to close out a playoff series against the Jayson Tatum-led Boston Celtics in the NBA's Eastern Conference Finals, Erik Spoelstra's son Santiago's cancer battle is a reminder that there are much more important fights happening off the court.
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