Heat Head Coach’s Wife Reveals 4-Year-Old Son’s Cancer Diagnosis

Erik Spoelstra, Nikki Spoelstra

Getty Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra and wife, Nikki Sapp Spoelstra, attend the 2017 NBA Awards live on TNT on June 26, 2017 in New York, New York.

While the Miami Heat closed out the regular season as the No. team in the Eastern Conference and came within one game of returning to the NBA Finals for the second time in three seasons, head coach Erik Spoelstra was dealing with some devastating personal news.

Back in March, Spoelstra missed one game against the Brooklyn Nets “due to a medical procedure for one of his two sons,” but no other details were provided. However, on Friday, July 22, Spoelstra’s wife, Nikki Sapp Spoelstra, opened up in a moving Instagram post about what happened with their eldest son, Santiago, 4.

She captioned the post tagged at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital, “The day after his fourth birthday,went in for an unexpected surgery. Intussusception. A mass was found. ‘Benign’ I thought to myself. It has to be benign.

“One week later, he was diagnosed with Burkitt Lymphoma. In the days, weeks, and months that followed… he endured (and thrived through) Chemotherapy.”

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As defined by Cedars Sinai, “Burkitt lymphoma is a rare, fast-growing form of non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL),” which is most common in boys age 5 to 10. “It’s a type of cancer that starts in white blood cells in the lymphatic system. The lymphatic system is part of the immune system. It helps to fight diseases and infections. The lymphatic system also helps balance fluids in different parts of the body.”

Thankfully, the Spoelstras’ story has a happy ending. “He was… and continues to be.. so brave. He did not lose his joy. So many friends and loved ones made sure that none of us did,” Nikki wrote. “Yesterday, our big boy got to ring the bell in the cancer wing at Nicklaus, and the gratitude I feel is overwhelming. REMISSION.”

“My family and I are incredibly grateful to his pediatricians, the surgeons, the doctors, the nurses, the whole Child Life Team, and all of the staff at Nicklaus who took care of our boy… but also, our family. There were many tears but these special individuals all made sure that there were plenty of smiles and all the love and support to go around. There really aren’t enough words. Simply… THANK YOU 🤍.”

The Know podcast host admits she’s still processing the past few months. “One day, I want to open up about this more and create a necessary and meaningful dialogue around the subject of childhood cancer and what it has meant to me to be a parent in this situation. For now, I am simply grateful.”


Mrs. Spoelstra Is Pregnant With the Couple’s Third Child

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, born in December 2019. A few weeks after the Heat lost Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals, Mrs. Spoelstra revealed on Instagram that they would soon be a family of five.

She captioned the baby announcement, “Half way there 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.


Keeping Her Pregnancy Under Wraps, Nikki Cheered on the Heat From Home

While Mrs. Spoelstra typically keeps her Instagram posts non-sports related, she made an exception during the Heat’s win-or-go-home Game 6 matchup against the Celtics. On her Instagram stories, she posted a selfie on the couch with her dog and wrote, “I generally hate these games #anxiety.”

Nikki Spoelstra

@nikkisappspo/IGNikki Sapp Spoelstra, Erik Spoelstra’s wife, shares her reaction to Heat/Celtics Game 6 on her Instagram stories.

While Heat star Jimmy Butler put on an incredible performance, scoring 45 points with nine rebounds and eight assists, with 2:06 remaining in the fourth quarter, the game was still tied 99-99.

Nikki Spoelstra

@nikkisappspo/IGNikki Sapp Spoelstra, Erik Spoelstra’s wife, shares her reaction to Heat/Celtics Game 6 on her Instagram stories.

Nikki then shared another update on her Instagram stories. Dipping an Oreo cookie into a glass of milk, “Not me stress eating,” she captioned the photo.

Nikki Spoelstra

@nikkisappspo/IGMiami Heat’s head coach Erik Spoelstra’s wife, Nikki Spoelstra, shows her support on Instagram.

On Saturday morning, Nikki proudly put on a black “CULTURE” hat while flashing a huge smile on her face, similar to how much of Heat Nation woke up after remembering that Miami forced a Game 7.

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