PORT BYRON, Illinois — It's a big night at Riverdale High School. The Rams hit the hardwood for their home opener, but 1 very important person missing from the sideline. Mark Lofgren's 3rd season as Rams head coach drastically changed on Veteran's Day. Lofgren returned home from a morning practice to his 2 year old son Blaine, who was battling strep throat.
"He looked real sickly and his skin was yellowish and his eyes were kinda glassy and he felt hot," explained Lofgren. "He just started wailing and saying how bad his stomach hurt so we took him to the ER."
A few hours of tests led to the news no parent ever wants to hear.
"The doctor just walked in and said he looks like he's got some masses in his stomach," said Lofgren "Your son has cancer. You're just repeating in your head 'my kid's got cancer, my kid's got cancer' and adrenaline kicks in and you just don't know what to think."
Blaine was diagnosed with Burkitt's lymphoma--- 1 of the fastest growing types of cancer. What was originally thought to be a little mass here and there-- was suddenly tumor all over his body,
"You think my child's gonna die," explained Lofgren. "I know my wife and i had a pretty rough time for the 1st couple of weeks because we know cancer is a pretty serious thing."
A head coach---- use to high pressure situations --- was now facing an entirely different ballgame.
"There's so many things outside your control when you coach or when your kid has cancer. Control your attitude, control what you can, try to win everyday the best you can so in that sense they're similar. I'd take a million stressful basketball games vs. day up here."
The Lofgren's now call room 89 at the University of Iowa Hospital home. a cozy new place that includes 2 month old little brother Ben.
"I joke because we moved to a little bigger room that we are now in the luxury suite. You make the most of it,: smiled Lofgren "We are moved in. we got Ben hanging out with us. In some wierd way it's kinda nice to spend time with your family."
Back at Riverdale High School, it's another, much larger family, taking care of things back home. Ballin' for Blaine t--shirts are seen everywhere as fundraisers, gifts, and well wishes continue to pile in.
"I feel like text messages and emails just don't convey what's in my wife and I's hearts," explains Lofgren. "I can't tell you how many people said they are praying for our little guy over the past few weeks and you're right whether it's something to do with you job or a fundraiser you can just sense the love that people have and the kindness. ">
Lofgren's assistants have taken the reigns this season on the court.
"I'd say more than keeping tabs," laughs Lofgren. "Since I've been up here I go on my nightly walks, watch game film and email the coaches. They call me quite a bit and it's a good distraction.">
"I ask Blaine all the time 'where do you wanna go to school' and he says in the cute little voice I'm going to riverdale. He's starting to dribble a basketball and that's what you hold on to. The days are tough sometimes but that's definitely what I'm looking forward to.">