INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Two Indianapolis Colts cheerleaders had their heads shaved Sunday, November 25th during the Colts 20-13 victory over the Buffalo Bills. This, in honor of Colts coach Chuck Pagano, who is fighting leukemia.
Pagano was there Sunday to see — and savor — every precious moment of it again.
Two weeks ago, Pagano returned to Lucas Oil Stadium for the first time since being diagnosed with leukemia Sept. 26th, and just having him around on game-day certainly made an impact.
This time, it wasn't just the players who got to see Pagano.
During a fourth-quarter break, team owner Jim Irsay and Pagano walked out of the owner's box together and waved to crowd, which gave them a standing ovation. Two Colts cheerleaders also shaved their heads in support of Pagano, who has lost his hair as he continues to undergo chemotherapy treatments, between the third and fourth quarters as part of a promise for a fundraising effort for leukemia research
The father of one of the cheerleaders who shaved her head held up a sign "Megan, Bald is Beautiful You Are Chuckstrong Love, Dad."
Pagano's doctor has described his leukemia as a highly treatable form of the disease.
“I am very optimistic that he will beat this thing,” Colts owner Jim Irsay said.
According to the National Cancer Institute, acute promyelocytic leukemia — the type with which Pagano was diagnosed — is an “aggressive (fast-growing) type of acute myeloid leukemia in which there are too many immature blood-forming cells in the blood and bone marrow.”
For patients who are promptly diagnosed with APL, the “disease-free survival” rate can be as high as 90% if the patient undergoes certain treatment regimens, the institute says.
Dr. Larry Cripe is overseeing Pagano’s treatment. He said he doesn’t know when Pagano will be able to return to football-related activities.
“The goal is to cure the disease,” said Cripe. “A cure is usually defined when the cancer is in remission for three to five years.”
According to Irsay, “the coach was feeling fatigue.” He said Pagano had also “noticed some bruising on his body” that he thought had resulted from playing with his grandkids or perhaps some contact during football practice.
Pagano’s wife urged him to see a doctor when the bruising became more prominent, Irsay said.
This is the first season for Pagano as Indianapolis head coach. Prior to this season, Pagano was defensive coordinator for the Baltimore Ravens. Under Pagano, the Ravens had one of the top-ranked defenses in the league last season.