The Indianapolis Colts announced on Oct. 1 that head coach Chuck Pagano has been diagnosed with acute promyelocytic leukemia (APML) and will be away from the team for "a period of time." Offensive coordinator Bruce Arians will fill in as interim head coach in Pagano's absence.
Colts owner Jim Irsay told Phillip B. Wilson of the Indianapolis Star that Pagano is not expected to return to coaching duties for the remainder of the season as he spends the next four to six months in treatment, which will include chemotherapy.
"I am optimistic," Irsay said, as reported by Wilson. "I feel with every fiber in my body, and I know Chuck feels the same way, that he can beat this thing."
APML appears to be a fairly rare form of leukemia--a cancer that affects the bone marrow. Only about 1,000 to 1,300 people are diagnosed with APML each year, according to the Colts, which makes up around two percent of the approximate 47,000 new diagnoses of leukemia each year.
The Colts website provides a lot of information about the condition--although I'll admit that I don't understand it all--and while the team assures its fans that "[s]urvival rates in leukemia have risen dramatically in the last 40 years with improvements in diagnosis and treatment," it gives no indication as to Pagano's prognosis.
Shari Rudavsky of the Indianapolis Star reports that APML is one of the more treatable forms of leukemia and also has one of the highest rates of remission, but Pagano has a long road ahead of him.
Pagano turns 52 on Oct. 2. He's married and has three daughters and two grandchildren.
I came across this sobering news as I checked in with Colts.com to start researching the team's chances in its upcoming game against the Green Bay Packers. I never expected to be greeted with this kind of thing.
Suddenly, football is pretty unimportant.
Get better soon, Coach.
The author is a resident of central Indiana and a longtime fan of the Colts. He is also a Featured Contributor in Sports for the Yahoo! Contributor Network. You can follow him on Twitter at @RedZoneWriting and on Facebook.