Ron Rivera is officially cancer free.
The Washington coach was told Thursday he no longer has cancer, according to social media posts from his wife and daughter Courtney, who works for the team. In August, Rivera revealed he was diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma, a form of skin cancer found in his lymph node. The coach underwent seven weeks of treatments that included proton therapy and chemotherapy.
Rivera continued coaching through his treatment — missing only a few practices. He didn’t miss a game, and players said they drew inspiration from Rivera’s battle against cancer.
“Thank you all for the love and prayers,” Courtney Rivera tweeted, “just got off the phone with mom and dad leaving the hospital @RiverboatRonHC is officially cancer free!!!”
Rivera’s wife, Stephanie, said the family’s “prayers have been answered” and thanked her husband’s doctors and nurses.
“The PET scan said it all, cancer you lost this fight!” she wrote on Twitter.
Ron Rivera said earlier this month that he was due for a checkup with his doctors that would provide a long-term diagnosis. In October, he completed treatment and rang the silver bell at the Inova Cancer Institute — a tradition for cancer patients who reach the milestone. Rivera told reporters then that his cancer was headed in the right direction and doctors were optimistic.
Rivera was determined to keep coaching throughout his battle. When initially announcing the news, he stressed that his cancer was treatable and he wanted to continue working. But there were notable signs that Rivera’s cancer affected him. He lost weight, appeared visibly tired at times and admitted he couldn’t coach with the energy that he wanted.
But the coach fought on, learning to adjust his schedule. He’d fit in pre-game naps to conserve strength, occasionally received IVs at halftime to stay hydrated and went home earlier than normal.
As he battled, players and coaches rallied around the coach to finish with a surprising 7-9 season that resulted in a playoff berth.
“We never gave up,” guard Brandon Scherff said after the season. “Coach Rivera wanted to come in and change the culture and he did. I absolutely love him. I absolutely love playing for him. I respect the heck out of him and to see how he coached us, going through everything that he was going through, it was just amazing to see that and very inspiring.”
As he talked about his recovery throughout the year, Rivera often credited the team’s doctors and support staff. He called the experience “eye-opening” and vowed to become an advocate for universal health care. “You worry about the folks who can’t afford what I have,” he said.
The support is also why Rivera was grateful to take the Washington job. After he was fired in December 2019 by the Carolina Panthers, the 59-year-old knew he wanted to continue coaching rather than take a year off to spend with his family. Washington soon hired him weeks later.
Rivera obviously couldn’t have predicted the cancer bout then. Over the summer, he discovered a bump on his neck while shaving — and when it didn’t go away, he found out that he had the diagnosis.
“People say: ‘Well, what would’ve happened if you took a year off?’” Rivera said earlier this month. “I don’t know. I really don’t. It scares me to think about what could’ve happened. I’m very fortunate. There’s a reason why I’m here. There’s a reason why I went through what I went through. I think because of it, I’m very fortunate. I’m better for it. I’ve learned from it. I want to help.”
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