SAN ANTONIO -- I've held off on writing about Fran McCaffery's 14-year-old son, Patrick, for a couple of reasons.
First, I was hoping the boy's surgery for a thyroid tumor would show a result that the tumor was benign, and this would be a story with a happy result that would soon happily fade away and I wouldn't have felt a need to chime in about it.
But also, I think about all the kids and adults and children and parents who are out there in anonymity, dealing with cancer and other rotten diseases, and I think I should have written about some of them, too.
I do know Fran McCaffery isn't comfortable about having his son in the public for something like this, but also realizes it's unavoidable given the Iowa men's basketball coach's prominent position. It is a completely valid news story, the child of a prominent sports figure facing that kind of health issue.
Plus, there's no such thing as too much awareness about diseases, even those we know all too well.
Anyway, I was sitting courtside Friday afternoon watching a thoroughly entertaining and hard-fought NCAA tournament game between victorious Creighton and spirited 13th-seed Louisiana-Lafayette when the news release came via e-mail from Iowa's sports information department saying that Patrick's tumor was diagnosed as malignant. The action in front of me and the crowd all around me became scenery and background noise.
I felt compelled in my job as a Iowa sports columnist to write something about this, despite the fact nothing I can write will be particularly useful, and may come off as being nothing more than trite.
Look, I know less about medical issues than just about anything. But what I do know is if you have to be sick with just about any imaginable problem, University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics is a really good place to be. I spent some time there last summer as a visitor of my sister-in-law, who had an extremely scary physical setback that she is still gamely and successfully fighting to recover from. It seemed to me like you could feel the brilliance and the dedication from the staff of the UIHC in every room, every corridor.
I also know Patrick McCaffery comes from sturdy stock in his parents, who didn't have first-rate Division I basketball playing careers and go on to build a successful professional career and a fine family without having the right stuff.
They've been passionate when the subject is cancer long before this lousy deal with Patrick. Both of Fran's parents died of colon cancer.
Fran and Margaret hosted fundraisers for cancer research all the way back to Fran's time as the coach at North Carolina-Greensboro. They've twice hosted Coaches vs. Cancer events in Carver-Hawkeye Arena, raising a total of over $100,000. That's using a professional platform about as well as you can use one.
Some year, somehow, science will defeat cancer altogether. It's not like tons of progress hasn't already been made. Someday, people will look back at cancer and say it was an amazingly powerful, destructive disease, but it was finally overcome because people never quit trying to break it down and beat it.
It probably won't be beaten in my lifetime. But maybe it will be in Patrick McCaffery's.