Digger Phelps doing well; chats about fight with bladder cancer

If you didn't know Digger Phelps was battling cancer, you wouldn't know it if you saw him today.

The former Irish men's basketball coach is as strong and passionate as he's ever been, despite an announcement 10 days ago that he's battling bladder cancer.

Digger is in good spirits and all signs point to a full recovery after catching the cancer early thanks to a 6-month checkup with his doctor.

Phelps isn't slowing down either. Monday he stopped by the WNDU Studios to talk with Gabby Gonzalez about stopping youth violence in Michiana for a story that will air next week. He will also be coaching Canada's men's 35 and older Israeli men's basketball team in Israel in July. He'll be off to Toronto for camp this weekend.

Digger has been through a battle with cancer before, beating Prostate Cancer three years ago. He says one of the toughest aspects is the waiting.

"It's a living hell--the fear of the unknown," Phelps explains. "You never know what they are going to find and all of that. It hit me again when I knew I had bladder cancer because you want to make sure they get it all."

Phelps had successful surgery on his bladder and is now in treatment.

He knows he's not alone in the battle. 72,000 new cases of bladder cancer come every year. And of course, he's got a ton of support from his family, friends, former players and coaches.

He says the support he's received has been almost overwhelming. While Digger openly admits he has no clue how to use a computer, he knows social media is a major reason for all the support because the word of his diagnosis spread so quickly.

He's had calls from all over the country and even the world. While at WNDU on Monday, he chatted with former Illinois standout Tal Brody, who called from Israel.

Earlier in the day he received a postcard from former President George H.W. Bush and his wife Barbara. Jeb Bush called him too.

Even Kentucky fans, with whom Digger has never had a great relationship with--are reaching out to him, including ones that would boo and argue with Digger whenever he's doing a Kentucky game for ESPN's College Gameday.

"We're rooting for you," Phelps says a Kentucky fan told him.. "And with the habit you have of beating #1 teams, you can beat this cancer."

It was 180 degrees the other way.

"'Yeah, digger we hate you as a basketball analyst but we love you and are praying for you and Big Blue nation wants you to beat cancer."

No support he's received has been bigger than from Notre Dame President Emeritus, Father Ted Hesburgh. Digger recently visited Father Ted to receive a blessing.

"The last thing he said to me as I was leaving his office was 'have the courage,'" Digger explains. "That just gets in you. He has a way of doing that to you. And I was like yeah "I have the courage and let's go out and beat this."

And of course, Digger has some parting words for you.

"Early detection. That's how you beat this stuff. Don't let me down."


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