Tom Dienhart, Senior Writer, March 21, 2014

I closed my eyes and said a prayer. It?s all I could think to do when I read Fran McCaffery?s statement from Iowa: ?Today, we received word from doctors that the tumor that was removed during our son Patrick?s surgery on Wednesday is malignant. We will visit with doctors as soon as possible to determine Patrick?s treatment.

?Margaret and I would like to thank everyone again for the outpouring of support from across the country for our son Patrick and family this past week. We appreciate everyone?s thoughts and prayers.?

This news hit all of us hard. Patrick, the son of Iowa's men's basketball coach, just turned 14 years old. I?m the father of a 13-year-old boy. And I couldn?t fathom dealing with news that a tumor removed from his body was malignant. What would I think if I heard that news as a parent?

Why him? ? How can this happen? ? This isn?t fair. … Will he be OK?

[ WATCH: "The Journey" profiled McCaffery's relationship with his family. ]

I only can imagine the thoughts running through the minds of the McCafferys. We all want answers. We all want to know what?s going to happen in our lives. The future is an exciting place, but it can also be a scary place. It?s the great unknown. No matter how much planning we do, no matter how much we think we have things in our lives in order, we don?t. What?s the saying? It's the one we lean on when news hits us hard: "Want to make God laugh? Tell him your plans."


The story of Patrick McCaffery went national this week when his father flew back to Iowa from Dayton for his son's Wednesday morning surgery, then flew back to Dayton to lead the Hawkeyes in the NCAA tournament Wednesday night. Iowa lost 78-65 in overtime to Tennessee.

And last week the Hawkeyes players honored Patrick in advance of his surgery by wearing special shooting shirts before their game in the Big Ten Men's Basketball Tournament.

We don?t know what tomorrow holds. It?s all out of our hands. Our power and control is but an illusion. We really are powerless. We only can do the footwork, and then we can do the next right thing. The outcome? We have to leave that in God?s hands. And then accept it. Whatever it is.

We all pray for the best for young Patrick. His life has hardly begun. So much awaits. When we are 14, we don?t understand that. But with the passing of time comes perspective and focus. As a parent, I get it. And I'm sure many of you do, too, if you are a parent. The surface hasn?t even been scratched for Patrick.

He's 14 years old.


News like this causes me to reflect on the gifts I?ve been given. The people in my life, the experiences I have had, the memories I?ve come to build and to cherish.

I hope Patrick beats this thing and is stronger for it. He has youth-strong, indefatigable youth–on his side. And he?ll also surely have top medical care. And he has all of us cheering him on.

And, of course, Patrick will have loving and supportive parents in Fran and Margaret, who will be by his side the whole way. Is there a more comforting feeling for a child than to know your mom and dad are right there with you for the battle?

Of course there isn't.

Godspeed to you, Patrick. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family.


About Tom Dienhart senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men's basketball for and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, read all of his work at, and subscribe to his posts via RSS. Also, send questions to his weekly mailbag using the form below and read all of his previous answers in his reader mailbag section.

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