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Washington Football Team’s Ron Rivera talks cancer treatment, support and commitment to his team

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ABC News

ABC NewsBy KELLY MCCARTHY, ABC News

(NEW YORK) — As the 2020 NFL season continues, one head coach has committed to sticking with his Sunday routine even in the face of an ongoing cancer battle.

Washington Football Team head coach Ron Rivera was diagnosed with Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC) in the offseason and receives five treatments a week. But he has vowed to push ahead with the support of his team, family and fans.

“First of all it’s who I am. Listening to the doctors talking about how important it is to try and do as much of your routine as possible, but they also tell you be careful, listen to your body,” he told ABC News’ Good Morning America about his decision to remain active with his new team this season. “There’s also people watching me. I’m trying to set the example.”

“Hey, RBG she went through it, so I figure I can too,” he added of the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg who died at 87 after a lengthy battle with pancreatic cancer.

Rivera said “I’m feelin pretty good” after the team’s matchup on Sunday.

“Once we got done with the game, I hydrated,” he said. “We went home. I tried to eat. Watched a little football. I honestly was in bed by about 8.”

The NFL veteran and first-year head coach of the newly renamed D.C-based organization saw a massive show of support on Sunday with a Coach’s Corner at FedEx Field. Hundreds of cardboard cutouts raised money in Rivera’s name for the American Cancer Society.

“It means a lot. You know, when I first was diagnosed, I was angry,” he said. “People have reached out and talked to me and have given me their examples or just sent their well wishes. It helps push me forward and I think that’s so important. When you go through something like this, you need a support system. When you have the right type of people pushing you, man, I tell you what it really helps. It gets your momentum going forward.”

One of the cutouts in Rivera’s cheering section was of his late brother Mickey who died of pancreatic cancer in 2015.

“That really hit me — cause Mickey was such a fighter. Just to see him again,” he said. “That hit home — It was awesome.”

There was also an additional cutout of his mom, which he said was technically her “first time” at an NFL game since he has been a head coach.

“She refuses to go because she doesn’t like people yelling at her son,” Rivera said with a laugh.

Rivera, 58, also touched on the importance of health care for anyone who’s facing a similar diagnosis.

“There’s so much that goes into this and it’s so expensive,” he said. “Everybody deserves the opportunity to fight and fight with everything they’re given. This is the opportunity now. People have to go out and vote. They have to vote their conscience because it’s important.”

Now on the downhill swing of his treatment timeline, Rivera remembered what the late ESPN anchor and SportsCenter host Stuart Scott, who died in 2015 of cancer, said.

“I’ve got three weeks left. One more cycle left to go of chemo. I’m looking forward to it,” he said. “As Stuart Scott said, you know, ‘I have it. It doesn’t have me and it’s not how far I have to go, but how far I’ve gone.'”

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