As Washington Football Team head coach Ron Rivera shaved one day, he noticed a bump on his neck. Pain when he moved his neck soon followed, leading Rivera to believe that he had potentially strained a muscle. At that point, he didn't think there were any problems beyond that.
"I kept an eye on it, I treated it like I would a pulled muscle," Rivera told Washington Football Team senior vice president of media Julie Donaldson. "And it didn’t go away.”
From there, Rivera went to the team doctor to get the bump looked at. After it continued to be present as time went on, Rivera was sent to get some additional testing done. It was then, that he was given some surprising news.
“It was determined that I was stricken with cancer," Rivera said.
Specifically, Rivera was diagnosed with lymph node cancer. The team and the public were made aware of the news on Thursday night. As support for around the NFL community pours in, Rivera has expressed his gratitude and his determination to overcome his battle with cancer.
Yet, he also can't help but feel a little frustrated with the diagnosis.
“I’m a little bit angry. I’m not quite sure how this happened. This is the healthiest I’ve felt in a long time in all honesty," Rivera said. "I lost some weight, I’ve been working out, doing things the right way. Had a great summer.”
“I was really disappointed, surprised, concerned, scared at times," Rivera said.
Now, no matter the emotions he's feeling, Rivera is focused on doing whatever it takes to earn a clean bill of health. At least at the beginning, that will mean an intense treatment regimen that will fill out a good amount of his time.
“My understanding is I will treat every day, five days a week for seven weeks," Rivera said. "Thirty-five treatments.”
That does not include other types of therapies and treatments to help Rivera throughout the process. Despite the time-consuming nature of his now-daily tasks, Rivera has no plans to step back from his football responsibilities in Washington.
The head coach has already noted that doctors have encouraged him to continue stepping out on the field as long as he feels healthy enough to do so. While there is a Plan B in place, Rivera is hoping to not have to use it.
Still, Rivera understands that this season will not be like the others of his coaching career. As much as he wants to dedicate all his time to football, he no longer can.
“What’s going to be the tough part most certainly will be just trying to manage time," Rivera said. "I hope to be able to do these treatments and not have them interfere with football.”
Rivera's new schedule will be an adjustment and something that will present a new set of challenges. But based on the adversity he's faced in just the few months since he arrived in Washington, there isn't really anything that can slow him down.
For now, succeeding with his health comes first, but football will still continue to serve a purpose as well. In the midst of some tough times, the sport he loves offers him an outlet and distraction.
“To keep working, stay focused on my treatment, my personal health," Rivera said. "But at the same time, distract myself when I need to."