Erik Spoelstra opens up about family’s cancer scare ahead of Heat benefit scrimmage, ‘Inspiration from other survivors is what gets you through it’

There’s a moment during the Miami Heat’s annual red, white and pink game when coach Erik Spoelstra typically finds himself welling up.

The embrace of breast cancer survivors at midfield during halftime of the intrasquad game is as profound a moment as any during the season.

Monday’s 6.30pm event at FTX Arena will be even more heartfelt for Spoelstra ahead of his 15th season guiding the team.

“Of course it will,” he said during a private moment at training camp.

This summer, the oldest of Spoelstra’s three children, 4-year-old Santago, completed treatment for Burkitt lymphoma, a type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma, a cancer of the lymphatic system.

The illness and subsequent remission were revealed in July in an Instagram post by Spoelstra’s wife, Nikki, that read in part:

“The day after his fourth birthday our son went in for an unexpected surgery. Intussusception.

A lot was found. ‘Good’ I thought to myself. It must be benign.

“A week later, he was diagnosed with Burkitt lymphoma. In the days, weeks and months that followed…he endured (and thrived through) chemotherapy.

“He was … and continues to be … so brave. He did not lose his joy. So many friends and loved ones made sure none of us did.

“Yesterday, our big boy had the bell rung in the cancer wing at Nicklaus, and the gratitude I feel is overwhelming. SURRENDER.”

Spoelstra, 51, who has been largely private about family matters during his time with the Heat, left the statement at the time.

But asked during training camp about this team once again hosting the annual scrimmage that benefits cancer treatment and research at the Miami Cancer Institute at Baptist Health South Florida, Spoelstra acknowledged that this year’s event will come with more acute emotion.

“Of course it will,” he told the Sun Sentinel. “I don’t know, to be honest, how I’m going to be out there. There were a lot of emotions the last few months and behind closed doors. I had a lot of hard times.

“It’s really inspiring, half of that event. And we’ve had a lot of people in our organization, wives who have been affected by breast cancer. It always means a lot to all of us, because of that. And then to see all the survivors out there, it’s really an inspiring emotional thing.

“It will definitely be even more, considering what our family has been through.”

Monday’s event comes a week after the birth of Spoelstra’s first daughter, Ruby Grace.

It comes at a time that values ​​so much beyond the court.

And of cancer treatment that can heal a son and a family, with the heartwarming moments that are possible.

“You know, I realized it before, when you have people going through it,” Spoelstra said. “And when it hits so close to home, it scares. . . out of you.

“But the inspiration from other survivors is what gets you through it.”

What: Annual Heat Red, White & Pink Game.

When: 18.30 Monday.

Where: FTX Arena

Cost: $1, with proceeds benefiting cancer treatment and research at the Miami Cancer Institute at Baptist Health South Florida.

Tickets: Available through Ticketmaster with details at

WHO: Intrasquad scrimmage with Heat 20-player preseason roster.

What’s next: Preseason opens 19:30 Tuesday at FTX Arena vs. Minnesota Timberwolves (Bally Sports Sun).


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