We reported earlier today that the Indianapolis Colts were planning to welcome head coach Chuck Pagano back to Lucas Oil Stadium for the first time since Pagano was diagnosed with leukemia on Sept. 26.
Bob Kravitz of the Indianapolis Star confirmed that Pagano is indeed in attendance. The original plan was for Pagano to avoid speaking to his team before the game due to the fact that his immune system could be compromised if he's near too many people, but the coach did speak to his players, and according to Kravitz, it was a very emotional event.
One man who could tell Pagano all about fighting cancer and returning to the NFL is official Tony Corrente, who is calling the Colts-Dolphins game. The veteran official checked into the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston on January 8, just one day after he worked the wild-card playoff game between the New Orleans Saints and Detroit Lions. Corrente had been diagnosed with a malignant tumor at the base of his tongue, and according to doctors, it was caught early enough for the news to be good.
After 13 chemotherapy treatments, Corrente was healthy enough to return to the field for the 2012 NFL season.
"Wonderful, fantastic, perfect!'' he told Si.com's Peter King after calling his first game back -- the 49ers-Jets game in Week 4. "Never been better, and I mean that. I am elated. I have a new lease on life."
Had Corrente not been knocked down in a game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens, it may have been too late.
"Getting knocked down and hurt in that Baltimore game might have saved my life,'' Corrente told King in January. "Then I started taking Motrin, which I found out causes your blood to thin. It broke through blood vessels and would come out when I coughed. Obviously, you've got to find out why that's happening. Had I not done anything, or had I taken Tylenol, which doesn't cause your blood to thin, I probably wouldn't have discovered this for a while -- and by then, I'd have needed massive surgery, and who knows what chances I would have had.''
Similarly, Pagano had no idea what he was in for when he was diagnosed -- he went in for a checkup after complaining of fatigue and an increased susceptibility to bruising. Because Pagano's leukemia was caught early, and it's a specific kind in which a cure is possible, Pagano and those supporting him have more reason to hope for the best.
"The goal of the treatment is to cure the disease," Dr. Larry Cripe, Pagano's specialist, said at the October 1 press conference announcing Pagano's condition. "That means that he's returned to a fully functional life -- the life that he's worked so hard to earn. And he's looking forward to leading the Colts to some Super Bowls. However, the process is long and complicated, and we're just starting right now. So, for the next several weeks, the process will be day by day. We'll be vigilant and we'll do everything we can to help him reach a full recovery."
It's not known whether Corrente has spoken to Pagano, but it sure would be nice if the two men could communicate -- Pagano has been a true warrior throughout his ongoing battle against his disease, but it's always meaningful to relate to those who have triumphed over similar circumstances.
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