In a somber and sometimes emotional news conference, Indianapolis Colts' owner Jim Isary announced that first year head coach Chuck Pagano has been diagnosed with a treatable form of leukemia.
Pagano, age 51, initially believed he was suffering from fatigue, but after noticing some unexplained bruising, he visited a doctor on Wednesday, Sept. 26th. Blood tests taken during that examination revealed he had a form of leukemia known as acute promyelocytic leukemia (APML). Pagano was immediately admitted to the Simon Cancer Center intensive care unit and began treatment for the disease that night. He is expected to be hospitalized for another six to eight weeks for treatment according to the LA Times.
APML is a cancer of the bone marrow. Symptoms of APML include easy bleeding, fatigue, bone pain and infection susceptibility. Treatment typically includes 3 different courses of treatments. The first, called induction treatment, involves a course of chemotherapy followed by a round of oral chemotherapy drugs. The third and final course of treatment is a low dose of chemotherapy.
When announcing Pagano's diagnosis on Monday, Irsay said: “It’s been a very difficult week. The coach was feeling some fatigue over the past few weeks. (He) had noticed some bruising on his body that at first he thought could have been from contact on the field coaching, or playing with his grand kids. Eventually through talking to his wife, Tina, she said, ‘You need to check that out because the bruising appears to be more prominent.’
“We did have the coach go in and get fully evaluated on the bruising and his fatigue. The conclusion came down that he did have leukemia. Obviously, it’s a very difficult blow for him, for his family.”
According to Colts.com, Pagano’s doctor, Dr. Larry Cripe stated: “The goal of the treatment is to cure the disease. That means that he returns to a fully functional life, the life that he’s worked so hard to earn, and he is looking forward to leading the Colts to some Super Bowls. The process is long and complicated. We’re just starting right now. For the next several weeks, this will be day-by-day. We’ll be vigilant and do everything we can to help him reach a full recovery.”
Colts' offensive coordinator Bruce Arians will be the interim head coach while Pagano receives treatment. During a news conference Arians' voice was shaky and cracked at times as he discussed Pagano's diagnosis and recalled his own fight with prostate cancer. The Washington Post quotes him as saying: “He will do fine,. I know him. He’s a fighter. He’s survived tough times already in his life. As a cancer survivor myself, I know that these first few days are really hard on you but as he and I talked yesterday, it’s just a matter of time.”
The news has hit the team hard as well. The normal joking and banter typical of many post practice interviews took on a more serious tone. Colts' cornerback Jerraud Powers said: “When I first heard about it, my heart dropped. You think about your family members or someone that’s actually been affected by it. But Chuck will fight this thing and he will beat this thing, there’s no doubt in my mind."