9:03 AM EDT, October 1, 2012
When the Indianapolis Colts take the field against the Green Bay Packers Sunday, they'll be without head coach Chuck Pagano. They may not get him back before the season ends.
Pagano will miss the Green Bay game and several more after being diagnosed with Acute Promyelocytic Leukemia (APML). Colts owner Jim Irsay suggested that Pagano's role with the team would be severely limited for the rest of the season.
Pagano is currently undergoing treatment at an Indianapolis-area hospital. In Pagano's absence, offensive coordinator Bruce Arians will lead the team.
During a news conference Monday morning at the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center, Irsay provided more information about Pagano's condition. According to Irsay, Pagano had been feeling fatigue over the last few weeks and noticed some bruising.
Pagano's wife Tina convinced him to go to a hospital once the bruising got worse. The coach was then fully evaluated..
Irsay called the diagnosis a "difficult blow" for the coach and his family, saying Pagano's first concern was for his family.
"I am optimstic," Irsay said about Pagano's recovery. "I feel with every fiber in my body and Chuck feels that he can beat this thing."
About Pagano's family, Irsay said, "They are doing well. (Chuck and Tina Pagano) are able to Skype with their daughters across the country.
“Chuck is very dear to this organization,” Irsay said. “The special thing about Chuck is that he’s a salt of the earth type man. He’s the type of guy who will spend ten minutes with the janitor and ask about his ill mother. He treats people in a special way. He’ll be greatly missed (during his absence).”
Dr. Larry Cripe of the Indiana University Simon Cancer Center is treating the coach. Cripe said he met Pagano last Wednesday after doctors evaluated him for bruising. Cripe diagnosed Pagano with Acute Promyelocytic Leukemia (APML).
He said Pagano wanted to address his condition “in a forthright fashion.”
“The goal of the treatment is to cure the disease,” Cripe said. “That mean he’s returned to a fully functional life and leading the Colts to some Super Bowls. The process is long and complicated and we’re just starting right now.”
Cripe said the next few weeks will be “day-to-day” as the coach recovers. Currently, Pagano is in what Cripe described as the “induction phase” of his treatment, which will include medication, chemotherapy and transfusions.
According to Cripe, Pagano’s prognosis is “relatively favorable” in terms of remission and curability.
Pagano will remain in the hospital until he feels better and his blood count reaches normal levels. The biggest risk right now is complications, Cripe said, adding that Pagano needs to be in a “protected environment” with filtered air and limited exposure to pathogens. He’ll also need a lot of supportive care to recover.
“His spirits are good,” Cripe said. “We remain optimistic.”
Cripe said he connected with Pagano immediately. The coach will remain in the hospital for four to six weeks. Cripe said he will consider Pagano “cured” when the coach has been in remission for three to five years. Pagano will require up to two years of treatment.
“All indications are that he’s benefitting (from treatment) at this point. I look forward to discussions and debates about the ‘prudent level of activity,’” the doctor said, describing the coach as “gung ho.”
About 1,300 adults are diagnosed with Acute myeloid leukemia every year. Of those, ten percent are diagnosed with the same type Pagano has.