Washington Football Team head coach Ron Rivera revealed on Thursday that he has cancer.
He told ESPN’s Adam Schefter that he has squamous cell cancer in his lymph nodes that was diagnosed after he discovered a lump in his neck in July. He told Schefter that the cancer is in the early stages, “very treatable and curable.”
“I was stunned,” Rivera told Schefter. “But I was angry because I feel like I'm in best health I've been in.”
Washington later provided more details on Rivera’s status, and pledged to support the coach every step of the way.
What is squamous cell cancer?
The National Cancer Institute describes squamous neck cancer as “when squamous cell cancer spreads to lymph nodes in the neck or around the collarbone.”
It describes squamous cells as “thin, flat cells that look like fish scales and are found in the tissue that forms the surface of the skin, the lining of the hollow organs of the body and the lining of the respiratory and digestive tracts.”
Rivera plans to keep coaching
Rivera, 58, is in his first year as head coach in Washington. He joined the team in the offseason following a nine-year tenure as the head coach of the Carolina Panthers. The Panthers fired Rivera last December, but he quickly found work in Washington as one of the top candidates on the market.
He said that he revealed the diagnosis to his team Thursday night and plans to move forward with his coaching duties. He did acknowledge to Schefter that a “Plan B” is in place in case he does have to step away from the job.
“Doctors encouraged me to do it, too,” Rivera said of continuing to work. “They said, 'If you feel strongly, do it. Don't slow down, do your physical activities.' But everyone keeps telling me by Week 3 or 4, you'll start feeling it.”
Washington is in the midst of a tumultuous offseason centered on a name change from the former name that was a racial slur toward Native Americans. Rivera has largely taken on the role of the face of the team’s transition.
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