Prayers For Flip Saunders

Flip Saunders cancer fight has taken a turn for the worse, according to reports coming out of Minneapolis. Saunders is in a hospital fighting Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, a cancer that originates in the white blood cells. Hodgkin’s Lymphoma is a more aggressive strain of the lymphoma cancers and Saunders, with his family at his side, is in a battle- a war really- to overcome the brutal ravaging to the body that cancer inflicts. Juxtaposed against the NBA season, training camp news and notes are irrelevant when faced with immediate physical trauma with life threatening complications. Although no public briefings have been made by the family or Saunders oncologists, what is being pieced together is a possible bad reaction to the chemotherapy, or worse, the cancer having spread.

Jerry Zgoda of the Minneapolis Tribune made these comments regarding Saunders uphill battle.

“There’s no question things have changed dramatically since the team announced his diagnosis in August, back when it quoted his doctors saying the cancer was very treatable and curable. Since then there have been changes to the way his body handled the chemotherapy (and maybe how much cancer they found) that have made it life threatening. Everyone involved has gone radio silent because of the family’s request for privacy. Between the complete silence and the lack of people visiting as far as I can tell, apart from his immediate family and very inner circle, the things I’m hearing second-hand, well none of it’s good. I’ll just say this, and this is just my own opinion, if he pulls through this: I doubt very much he’s back this year, it’s probably unlikely he coaches again just because of the stress inherent doing both these jobs.”

It would have been a beautiful story if Saunders, on opening night in Los Angeles, was on the sidelines. It would have been a triumph over a disease that is often random and indiscriminate in its pathways, and if you read researchers notes, cancer is a genetic mistake. It would have been a victory over the ravaging effects of chemo that always seems to compromise the immune system.

Saunders doctors gave everyone hope when they said his cancer was treatable and it built a false impression that cancer patients always understand, those who are fighting the disease, those who have fought the disease, and those who have watched the disease return. Something can always go wrong.

The wrong is here. The Timberwolves will be in Los Angeles on opening night. Sam Mitchell will be on the sidelines. Kevin Garnett will be on the court. Karl Anthony Towns will make his debut. Kobe Bryant will return from injury, so on and so forth. It will be very normal and something about it will be abnormal.

Cancer will be a part of the story of what happens that night and it won’t matter if you never ever met Flip Saunders because this is the thing about cancer, it is everywhere. Everywhere. On this night, as I write this, someone who has the disease of cancer is lucky and will be cured, and on this night as I write this, someone who has the disease of cancer will be unlucky and suffer. It’s a crazy, unfair, unpredictable piece of cruelty. It is also the new normal for Flip Saunders and his family.

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