Washington Football Team coach Ron Rivera has three more weeks of cancer treatments remaining, and he reiterated that he plans to continue coaching throughout the process.
“It’s who I am,” Rivera said Monday on “Good Morning America.” “Listening to the doctors talking about how important it is to try and do as much of the routine as possible, but they also tell you, ‘Hey, be careful, listen to your body.’ And also, there’s other people watching me, so I’m just trying to set the example.”
Rivera was diagnosed with squamous cell cancer in August, causing him to miss two practices and part of a third. Doctors told him they caught it early enough and that his prognosis is good.
During Washington’s 31-17 loss to Baltimore on Sunday, Rivera was visibly drained after receiving chemotherapy earlier in the week. He needed to steady his hand on a team employee as he walked to the locker room at halftime. Rivera would occasionally take a seat during breaks and hydrate throughout the game. He said he took two IV fluids before the game.
Rivera said he has one more round of chemotherapy in the final three weeks.
“I’m looking forward to it,” Rivera said. “As [ESPN anchor] Stuart Scott said, I have it; it doesn’t have me. And it’s not how far I have to go, but it’s how far I’ve gone.”
Rivera’s diagnosis was made public on Aug. 20. He had first noticed a lump on his throat; when it didn’t go away within two weeks, he saw a doctor.
Rivera said having a strong support system has mattered. That support system was visible Sunday in a section of the stadium dubbed “Coach’s Corner,” where another sign that read #RIVERASTRONG could be seen. Approximately 400 cardboard cutouts adorned the section; family and friends paid money to have their pictures on cutouts, helping to raise $30,000 for the American Cancer Society.
“When I first was diagnosed, I was angry; and then as I’ve gone through this, it’s always, ‘Well, why me?'” he said. “But as people have reached out, have talked to me, have given me their examples or just sent their well wishes, it helps push me forward. And I think that’s so important, ’cause when you go through something like this, you need a support system. And when you have the right type of people pushing you — man, I’ll tell you what, it really helps to get your momentum going forward.”
One of those photos was of Rivera’s brother Mickey, who died in 2015 after a two-year battle with pancreatic cancer. Recalling that during his postgame news conference caused Rivera to choke up.
When Robin Roberts asked him about it Monday morning, Rivera said, “That really hit me. It’s hitting me now. Mickey was such a fighter. And just to see him again, and just imagine — that hit home. That was great. It was awesome.”
Rivera reiterated to Roberts his desire for affordable health care in the United States.
“There’s so much that goes into this, and so expensive, that if we don’t have quality health care in our country — we’re the richest country in the world, [so] we should,” he said. “And everybody deserves the opportunity to fight, and fight with everything that they’re given. And this is the opportunity now. So people got to go out and they’ve got to vote, they’ve got to vote their conscience, because it’s important.”
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