Sports Outside the Beltway

Supersonics’ Hill remembers cancer scare

the head coach of the NBA’s Seattle franchise is a malignant melanoma survivor.

About the same time he celebrated his five-year anniversary without cancer, Bob Hill began his first full season as Sonics coach. His melanoma is in remission and all that remains is a scar on the small of his back, which is a constant reminder of the day when time stopped.

Hill’s wife Pam noticed a small black spot on his back when he got out of the shower and told him to have it looked at.

“I didn’t think anything of it,” Hill said. “I went to my physical. They took it off. Had a biopsy, and I forgot about it.”

Until his oldest son, Cameron, took him aside before a scrimmage and told him he had melanoma.

“The first thing you think about is: Is your portfolio in place?” Bob Hill said. “All of your thoughts are all bad. It’s just awful.”

It was Oct. 31, 2001, and he was coaching at Fordham University. The team was preparing to start a scrimmage against Marist, but the rest of the details are fuzzy, Hill remembers. He paid little attention to the game, and most of his thoughts focused on his wife and their three sons.

“You want to go and have the operation right now. Let’s do it now … ,” he said. “But I take two baby aspirins every day and that thins your blood, so I had to wait 10 days to two weeks to have an operation. Fortunately, it didn’t get to the lymph nodes. I forgot all of the numbers, but it was weird because you go to the hospital for an operation and you don’t feel sick. You don’t feel bad. I felt fine. I was in shape. It was a scary, scary thing.”

On Nov. 12, the night Fordham opened against DePaul, Hill underwent surgery to have the malignant mole removed. After digging deep for the cancerous cells, doctors needed 12 stitches to close the wound. Two nights later, Hill tore open his incision, which prolonged his four-month recovery.

Upon arriving to Seattle in 2005, Hill, 58, received a clean bill of health. His five-year anniversary was special.

“Doctors say that if it doesn’t come back within five years, then you’re in the clear,” Hill said.

Ten years without a recurrence is actually considered the big milestone.

I’ve been a MM survivor since 1993. Like Hill, I only had only local disease and metastisis. We’re both stage II patients. The “I’m feeling well.” aspect of Hill’s story is very familiar to me. My diagnosis in Dec 1993 came as a complete shock. How can I have cancer.

Yesterday another melanoma patient lost her battle. Her name was Jamie, she was 29 years old, and her mother Donna was a regular on the Melanoma mailing list I’ve been subscribed to for many years. I’ve lost too many friends to this awful disease. God bless Bob Hill and all the melanoma warriors.

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