Treatments, Private Flights and Hydration: How Ron Rivera Is Balancing Coaching and Cancer

'I'm holding up well': Rivera on balancing coaching and cancer originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

In the middle of his typical day-after-game press conference, Ron Rivera casually referenced something quite serious. If you weren't listening closely, it was easy to skip over. 

"As soon as I'm done here, I'm headed to my treatments," Rivera said, referring to yet another appointment he had scheduled with his doctor as he continues to battle with squamous cell carcinoma, a cancer he was diagnosed with in August.

Rivera's voice didn't change at all when he brought that up. In fact, he got far more animated when discussing what mechanical flaw causes Dwayne Haskins to overthrow a receiver than he did when speaking about his own health.

Since revealing that he had cancer last month, the 58-year-old has been open to talking about how he's doing, but only when prompted. He certainly prefers to stick to on-field topics like the maturation of his young roster and his thought process behind key decisions, and that's more than understandable.

However, while Rivera may not personally want to draw attention to what he's trying to pull off, it's worth reminding people constantly: This man is attempting to fix an NFL franchise and beat one of the world's most awful diseases. At the same time.

Both of those tasks on their own require nearly unlimited energy. 24-hours may not feel like enough in either instance. And he's balancing them simultaneously.

So far, fortunately, he's encouraged by how he's doing.

"I'm holding up well," Rivera said. "I am."

Back in Ashburn after Washington's loss to the Cardinals, Rivera reflected on his first road trip of the year. In doing so, he revealed more details of how he's had to change the way he approaches his job.

Instead of traveling along with the rest of the players and staff on Friday, Rivera went to Arizona on Saturday, because his doctors didn't want him to spend unnecessary time in Arizona if he didn't have to. He flew back separately, too, and admitted that he slept for the whole journey home. 

At halftime of the game, meanwhile, Rivera didn't take an IV, which differed from Week 1. The cooler temperatures at State Farm Stadium and an emphasis on drinking lots of water and Gatorade allowed Rivera to skip that measure. 

Rivera isn't just adjusting on weekends, however. He's added in a pair of near-daily 30-minute breaks, one early in the morning and one after practices, where he dials it down and closes his eyes to recuperate a bit. Hydrating also remains a fixture of his routine.

"I've kind of learned and understood how it goes," he said.

There have been a couple of noticeable absences for Rivera, including one entire practice before the Eagles win and the first few plays in the second half of that meeting as he was finishing up his IV, but for the most part, he's remained firmly in control of Washington's football side.

Rivera is one month in to his bout with cancer, and in that month, he's figured out how to cope with it and carry on as an NFL coach. He's now at the point where he nonchalantly mentions an upcoming cancer treatment like he's headed to fill his tires with air. He's going to keep downplaying it as well, because that's the kind of person he is, but the toughness he's showing is astounding.

Sure, it's a tired point, but it's often noted that the strongest people are asked to deal with the most difficult things. What Rivera's doing absolutely fits that description. Just don't let his incredible strength allow you to forget what he's pulling off every single day.

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