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It’s cold and gray outside this morning. It’s going to get colder. There’s even suppose to be a foot of snow on the ground by the end of the weekend.
Something, I thought, needs to happen to brighten the day.
That “something” turned out to be the Rivera family announcing the best news I think anyone could hear: “Thank you all for the love and prayers,” Washington Coach Ron Rivera’s daughter posted on social media. “Just got off the phone with mom and dad leaving the hospital and @RiverboatRonHC is officially cancer free.”
Two of the greatest words I think you can ever hear put together: Cancer free.
I doubt there are any diseases people think positively about, but when it comes to the most hated of them all, cancer is the one most deserving of burning in the fires of hell. It’s an awful disease that is not some theoretical condition that you read about involving others. It’s personal, and it seems like it ends up touching everyone in some way.
I’ve lost friends to it, I’ve watched my own father battle it, I’ve seen people who have made bad life decisions get it (like by smoking 3 packs of cigarettes a day) and I’ve seen perfectly healthy people who eat right, exercise every day and never touch any of the world’s vices get it.
It transforms the notion of the freedom to do whatever you want into a case where every sentence regarding the future starts with the word “if.” As if it weren’t evil enough in the first place, it also seems to have a nasty habit of taunting people through the ebbs and flows of its attack on the human body.
When my Dad was fighting it, some days we’d hear the cancer had aggressively grown, and he might not be around in a week. Then a few days later we’d hear the treatment had worked, and things looked good. It seemed like it was cancer’s way of saying “don’t take me for granted or I will have to show you who is running this show.”
Which is why I hate cancer so much. Cancer is a jerk. Cancer is perpetually invited to look at the mistletoe hanging from my back belt loop and kiss my backside. Cancer has robbed me of friends I hoped to tell juvenile jokes to and remember the old days with for many years to come.
Because of this, I find myself rejoicing even when it’s a total stranger ringing the bell to tell the world you’ve finished your final treatment. It also signals that person is one tough individual, who has been to the mat with the 800-pound gorilla of medicine, and sent it away crying for it’s mom.
Rivera was diagnosed in August with squamous cell carcinoma, and managed to still coach the team, something I don’t think most people appreciate what a herculean effort that was. Cancer treatments knock you down, leave you weak, take away your appetite and make doing anything that requires a lot of concentration tough.
That Rivera managed to keep coaching through that is a huge testament to his strength. People talk about what a miracle it was his football team made the playoffs after a 2-7 start, but the real miracle was at the end of October, when he too got to ring the bell to signal his last treatment. But if you’ve ever had a friend or family do this, you know ringing the bell is similar to making the playoffs. The real good news comes a month later when doctors do something called a PET scan to make sure they got everything and nothing has returned.
Late yesterday, Riverboat Ron got the news. He made it to the Super Bowl. Tests said he was cancer free.
So as you go about your business today scarfing down all the bread, milk and toilet paper you can in anticipation of the weekend snowstorm, yeah, it’s cold and gray outside.
But as far as I’m concerned, the sun is shining brightly in Ashburn.
The picture says it all. Cancer messed with the wrong marine.
Riverboat Ron kicked cancer's ass.