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|08-09-2016, 11:20 PM||#1|
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Would-be USA Olympian discusses battle with cancer
Craig Sager is a true sports guy, but he does not always follow the rules, and as he battles a conniving, malicious disease like cancer, Sager explained how it's the only way to fight fair.</p> "I like you. You're great. I didn't want to do any more interviews with you, though," Sager joked after giving a big hug.</p> I interviewed Sager one year ago, and he spoke with confidence that by the time the Olympics in Rio came around, he would be back to normal (cancer free). Like the disease often does, it took those words and turned against him.</p> In the last year, Sager suffered a relapse and even faced a premature demise in the press when it was published that he had three to six months to live. Sager immediately spoke up to clarify that was what would happen if he stopped treatment.</p> Sager said he does not believe stopping anything is an option. That's why the news last month that he would miss going to the Olympics in Rio came as a blow to everyone cheering him on.</p> "Do you wish you were there?" I asked.</p> "Well, of course. I have not, you know, missed USA basketball team coverage since 'The Dream Team,'" Sager answered. "The overall aspect of things, I probably should not be in Rio. I mean, in my condition, needing platelets every other day like I would need, probably isn't the right place."</p> Instead, Sager is confined to a hospital room in the Texas Medical Center waiting for a third transplant. He said his doctors claim they've only had about 10 previous patients undergo a third transplant surgery. They have found him another match.</p> The third transplant is scheduled for Aug. 31, and then he's there another month recovering. It will take a force of doctors and nurses, not to keep him well, but to keep him from escaping his hospital room.</p> Last month, when the USA men's basketball team played at the Toyota Center, Sager disobeyed doctors' orders and made an appearance.</p> "You got out once," I razzed him.</p> "Once? They only caught me once?" he laughed.</p> "Did you make contact with the USA basketball team before they left?" I asked more directly.</p> "Yeah, you know, my doctors know me and they know that I'm a happier person when I'm not confined," he said. "I was watching my blood drip and get a transfusion, and the USA team is in town and the game is at 7 and I really wanted to go over and see the guys, especially since I can't go to Rio with them, and I'm looking at the clock and its 8 and it's halftime and I said, 'Can you hurry this thing up?' … I said, 'Pump it up,' and I have them go full blast, and then finished and I said, 'I can get down there.' I had them unhook me. I said I was going for a walk."</p> Sager admitted he walked out of the hospital and caught a cab to the Toyota Center.</p> "I walked into the Toyota Center and they gave me a standing ovation and put me on the board, and then Coach K. asked me to speak to the team and I did that, and the next day it was all over the Internet and everywhere, so I got busted by the nurses and the head of the whole Hospital," Sager said.</p> Sager said the timing worked in his favor, and Dr. DePinho came by his room in a good mood the day after MD Anderson was listed as a top-rated cancer hospital.</p> "I said, 'Are you scolding me?' He said 'Yes! We have to keep you healthy so this can be successful!' I said, 'Yeah, but inside you're proud of me, aren't you?'" Sager said, grinning.</p> Sager said he knows it has potentially dangerous side effects for some patients, but talking to people is where he thrives. That's why he replies to his fans who sent letters by the hundreds after his ESPYS speech.</p> [WATCH: Sager: "One day soon we'll wipe out cancer"]</p> He embraces being a role model and cannot wait to be back at work. That's what he wanted to tell the USA men's basketball team the day he snuck out of the hospital.</p> "I said, 'You have to do it as a team, but I have total faith and confidence in you, and when you get back I'll be ready. I'll be ready for opening day and I'll be ready to meet and greet each and every one of you as a gold medal winner,'" he said.</p> The USA men's basketball plays again Wednesday at 5 p.m. The women's team plays at 1:30 p.m.</p>
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