NFL Coach Ron Rivera's Victory
- Players from the Washington Team filmed a special video honoring their coach Ron Rivera after he celebrated being cancer-free for one year. The NFL great was so moved by the tribute that he had to fight back tears as he told his team: “As a coach, you always wonder if you get a chance to reach out to the players and touch them.”
- Doctors diagnosed Rivera with squamous cell cancer in August 2020, one month after the coach detected a lump in his neck. In Rivera’s case, the cancer had been contained to the lymph nodes in his neck. He started treatment almost immediately, opting to undergo both chemotherapy and proton therapy.
- “Proton therapy is more targeted, so it essentially goes in and deposits all of the radiation where the tumor is, and it avoids radiation beyond the tumor.,” explained Dr. Charles Simone, medical director of the New York Proton Center.
Washington coach Ron Rivera recently celebrated one year cancer-free, and to commemorate the achievement, Monday night viewers got see the special tribute the team filmed for their coach.Read More
Doctors diagnosed Rivera with squamous cell carcinoma in August 2020, one month after the coach detected a lump in his neck. That is the same cancer that football great Jim Kelly battled in 2013 for the first time.
In Rivera’s case, the cancer had been contained to the lymph nodes in his neck. He started treatment almost immediately, opting to undergo both chemotherapy and proton therapy to ensure that the disease would be wiped from his body.
Rivera continued to receive treatment throughout the pre-season and into the first month of the regular season while somehow managing to never waver on the field.
“I really battled to continue to work and coach, and that was important to me as far as my mindset was concerned in terms of rehab, try to get ready to go,” Rivera previously told SurvivorNet. “I think [coaching] really kind of helped me focus through.”
Their devotion to his team and inner strength greatly impacted his players, as they explained in their tributes.
“As a coach, you always wonder if you get a chance to reach out to the players and touch them,” said Rivera. “This was awesome, man. Thank you.”
Among the players who appeared in the video were Chase Young, Deshazor Everett, Logan Thomas, Jonathan Allen and Montez Sweat.
“I was at a loss for words, just seeing how Coach Rivera never complained,” said Young. “He came to work every day. He gave me more energy to say, ‘Okay, Coach Rivera is going through what he’s going through. He’s still coming to work. We’ve gotta pick this up for Coach Rivera.'”
Deshazor Everett spoke about “how much of a warrior” Rivera is, noting: “To see him go through that, it makes us fight that much harder.”
“I think everyone would agree that he had the right…to be able to complain and feel bad for himself, and nobody would have even thought twice about it. But he didn’t,” said Allen. “He pushed through it, he worked hard. He controlled his actions, his attitude. I just think he’s a shining example for what we should strive to be on and off the field.”
Sweat meanwhile noted how watching Rivera “lit a fire” under the team. The Washington Football Team won the game against the Atlanta Falcons tied to Rivera’s one-year anniversary, and won the Seattle game as well.
A number of cancer treatments now include proton therapy as part of the treatment plan.
In a previous interview with SurvivorNet, Dr. Charles Simone, medical director of the New York Proton Center, explained the benefits of this form of radiation and how it is administered to patients.
“Proton therapy is more targeted, so it essentially goes in and deposits all of the radiation where the tumor is, and it avoids radiation beyond the tumor,” explained Dr. Simone.
That has a huge benefit to patients, who are at far less risk of damaging other parts of the body.
“So, traditional radiation, you send the radiation in, you hit the tumor, but then it keeps going out the other side,” pointed out Simone. “So it goes through and through patients, and that’s where you really get the side effects from radiation, the radiation before and after the tumor. ”
He continued: “Whereas, proton therapy, you send the radiation in, and you hit the tumor. With the radiation now being deposited very precisely, you can potentially avoid side effects of normal tissues getting extra radiation.”
There are, however, still some side effects. The two most common are fatigue and skin redness akin to a sunburn that can cause extreme discomfort for some patients.
Ron Rivera on Mental Health
It takes strength and courage to battle cancer.
Rivera did all that while also coaching a team in the NFL, a feat he credits to his mental health.
“One of the neat things that when I was going through this that really, I think, did help me was the distraction of football itself. Cause sometimes you are looking for something to grasp on to, to help take your mind off of [treatment], and I’m fortunate that mine was my work,” said Rivera.
He also had his wife by his side through it all, offering support.
Rivera said wife, Stephanie, helped a lot at appointments, too, because she would “ask the questions that [were] going to help find the answers.”