By Steve Blanchard - October 24, 2018
"My real name is Joe, and I've been living with leukemia for 11 years. And unfortunately it's back."
That’s how WWE wrestling superstar Roman Reigns began the Oct. 22 broadcast of “Raw.” He shared that he was stepping away from the ring to focus on his treatment.
While fellow wrestlers and fans were stunned, the announcement put a spotlight on a form of cancer that many don’t understand. Leukemia, which affects blood cells, comes in many forms and treatment varies by individual and type of the blood cancer, according to Dr. Rami Komrokji, vice chair of the Malignant Hematology Department at Moffitt Cancer Center.
“Leukemia affects different populations in different ways,” Komrokji said. “But there have been advances in treatment in recent years with better outcomes for patients.”
For example, up to 80 percent of children who have acute lymphocytic leukemia and adults with acute promyelocytic leukemia (a rare type of acute myeloid leukemia) can be cured. Several new treatments have been developed and approved in the recent years for treatment of leukemias including targeted therapies and treatments that modulate or enhance our immune system to fight the leukemia cells. So far, Reigns has not disclosed what type of leukemia he has.
Komrokji added that it is not uncommon for patients to see a recurrence with leukemia. Reigns shared that he was initially diagnosed when he was 22 years old but successful treatment put him in remission.
Komrokji is hopeful that Reigns will be in remission again.
“Given his age and duration of his remission, I think there would be a chance, hopefully, to have him cured and go back to the ring,” Komrokji said.
Reigns is hopeful as well, telling fans that he is already looking forward to the day of his return to the wrestling ring.
“I will bet this and be back,” Reigns told the audience. “So you will see me very soon.”