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End of Roman’s reign?

WWE fans across the globe were stunned when Roman Reigns was diagnosed with leukemia. Patriot analyses whether he will be able to return to the ring after battling the disease

The night of October 22 was like any normal Monday night for WWE fans, as they tuned in to watch their weekly television show Raw, that airs every Monday night. But fans across the globe were in for a rude shock in the opening segment of the night.

WWE Universal Champion, and one of the most popular modern-day WWE wrestlers, Roman Reigns came out dressed in casual clothes and not his ring gear, to kick off the show. He picked up the microphone and declared to the whole world that he has to quit the sport for the time being as he has been diagnosed with leukemia, and relinquish his Universal title.

In an emotional speech Reigns, whose real name is Joe Anoa’i, said that he had battled the disease 11 years ago and came out of it, but it has once again affected his body.

“Leukemia is an advanced form of blood cancer,” says Dr Ramesh Batra, an oncologist. “This type of cancer not only affects the blood cells, but also the bone marrow and the lymph nodes, and that is why it is one of the most dangerous forms of the disease,” he adds. The disease mostly damages the white blood cells which are responsible for maintaining the immunity of the body.

Reigns is the first active WWE wrestler to be diagnosed with any form of cancer. There have been wrestlers in the past who have fought and overcome cancer, but all of them have either been retired or had the disease before competing in the ring. Former WWE women’s champion and wife of popular wrestler, The Undertaker, Michelle McCool recently won a battle with breast cancer. Former champion Zack Ryder overcame skin cancer when he was in high school, years before he entered the ring. The most popular wrestler on the list is probably former WWE champion and Canadian icon Bret “the Hitman” Hart, who recently recovered from colon cancer.

In other sports too, there have been lot of sportspersons who have battled the disease and have come back stronger than ever. The name that most Indians can relate too is Yuvraj Singh. During the course of the 2011 cricket world cup, Yuvraj felt a slight discomfort in his body, and when tested it was later revealed to be a malignant tumor in his left lung. After undergoing prolonged treatment, he not only returned to the field, but went on to represent India in numerous international matches.

Cycling legend Lance Armstrong has perhaps the most inspiring cancer survival story. During the peak of his career in 1996, Armstrong was diagnosed with advanced testicular cancer, which had affected his lungs, kidney and brain as well. He, however, did not give up, and after two years of treatment, he was declared ‘cancer-free’. He later returned to the sport in 1998, and went to receive accolade after accolade, including multiple Tour De France and Olympic medals.

“Reigns too should not lose hope, as he too could make a return like all these men”, says Dr Batra. “If the cancer is not at an advanced stage, it can definitely be treated, and he can become cancer free”, he adds . But he says that his chances will decrease a lot if his disease has reached beyond the second or third stage. “The cancer can be treated, but naturally the number of chemotherapies will increase, and will thus make the body weak,” says Dr Batra. “In addition to this, leukemia patients are sometimes treated by destroying the cancerous white blood cells, and in the process, some of the normal white blood cells too get destroyed, thus reducing the body’s immunity and making it weak. So, even if he recovers from the disease, it will be tough for him to get back to the ring and engage in such a physical sport,” he adds.

Arunava Ghosh started watching WWE in 2012, the year Reigns debuted in WWE as part of the three-man team The Shield, and has been his die-hard fan ever since. “I was devastated to hear his announcement. But I believe that he will come back as he is a fighter,” he says. “He has defeated the disease once before, and he will do it again,” he adds.

“I want to make one thing clear — by no means is this a retirement speech. Because when I’m done whipping leukemia’s ass once again, I’m coming back home,” said Reigns, during his announcement. “I will beat this, and I will be back and you will see me very, very soon,” he said as he concluded his emotionally charged speech.