By Steve Blanchard
Four months after announcing that he was stepping away from professional wrestling to undergo treatment for leukemia, WWE Superstar Roman Reigns returned to the organization’s broadcast of “Raw” this week to share that there is no trace of his cancer and he is ready to step back into the ring.
“The good news is I’m in remission, y’all,” he said during the broadcast from Atlanta. “So with that being said, the Big Dog is back!”
Reigns, whose real name is Joe Anoa’i, was welcomed with thunderous applause and chants of “Welcome back!”
His Oct. 22 announcement that he had been living with leukemia for 11 years and that he had to undergo treatment again stunned WWE fans and stars alike. Even Reigns himself said he wasn’t sure if he wanted to go public with the news.
“I was terrified, y’all," Reigns said during Monday’s broadcast. "I was scared. I was insecure and I didn’t really know if I wanted to share that secret with the world.”
His 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. In October, Reigns shared that he was initially diagnosed when he was 22 years old but successful treatment put him in remission.
Komrokji said that Reigns had two factors working in his favor to bring him back to remission, his age and the length of his previous remission.
On Monday, Reigns greeted fans at ringside and gave long hugs to family members and his mother before stepping into the ring to wild cheers.
“I missed y’all,” Reigns said. “There is no other job like this. There is no fan base like you guys."
Reigns hasn’t announced when he will be back for an in-ring competition, but it’s expected that he could participate in WrestleMania 35 in April.