How Ron Rivera completed cancer treatments while coaching the Washington Football Team

By | November 25, 2020

Ron Rivera didn’t miss a game as the Washington Football Team head coach while undergoing cancer treatments.

He was diagnosed with cancer squamos cell cancer in his lymph nodes in August, shortly before Washington was due to begin its first season with Rivera at the helm. Rivera had to undergo seven rounds of treatment since then, but in late October, he was able to ring the bell after having completed that care. And on Thanksgiving, Rivera will have a chance to lead the WFT to first place in the NFC East.

“Seeing him go through what he’s going through and still coming out here to work every day is inspiring,” WFT defensive backs coach Chris Harris told ESPN. “I told [the players], you don’t have anything to complain about. You think you got it bad? You don’t. We’ve got a head coach who’s battling cancer and he’s dedicated enough to where he does that and it zaps the living life out of him and he’s out here with you guys every day as much as he can.”

When did Ron Rivera get cancer?

Ron Rivera told ESPN’s Adam Schefter on Aug. 20 that he’d been diagnosed with squamous cell cancer in his lymph nodes after a self check, adding that the cancer was in the early stages and “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.”

That Aug. 20 night, a Thursday, Rivera told his Washington Football Team that he planned to continue coaching. He was hired ahead of the 2020 season by the WFT after his departure from Carolina, where he’d coached for nine years. 

Ron Rivera treated cancer while coaching

Rivera underwent seven weeks of treatment that included chemotherapy and proton treatments, according to ESPN. That concluded on Oct. 26 with Rivera’s final treatment, a day after the WFT beat the Cowboys, 25-3, in Week 7. He told reporters than that there’d still be several weeks of follow-ups and scans, but that “What I’ve been told is it’s heading in the right direction.”

The head coach didn’t miss a game during his treatments, but he told ESPN that he told his wife the fatigue was like having a 300-pound gorilla on his back.

Rivera’s second-to-last chemotherapy treatment before Week 7 was leading into a Week 4 game against the Ravens. He could be seen during that game looking weakened on the sideline, needing to sit on the bench at times and using the help of a team employee to get to the locker room at halftime. 

Washington had a bye following Rivera’s final treatment, and there have been no such sideline issues of note since.

Ron Rivera rings the bell

Just watch the moment following Rivera’s final cancer treatment.

Rivera also made great use of the “how it started, how it’s going,” meme on his own social media account.