Colts coach Chuck Pagano and his wife Tina spoke for the first time Thursday about his recent fight with leukemia.
The head coach was diagnosed with cancer in late September. He had to sit out most of the season due to chemotherapy, but returned to his job with the Colts on Dec. 24.
Today the Pagano's sat down with local media for their first one-on-one interview about the challenges and triumphs they’ve experienced since Coach Pagano was diagnosed with leukemia in September 2012.
In an interview with local ABC affiliate, WTHR-6, the couple shared their initial reaction to the cancer diagnosis.
"I think it was worse for Chuck, although ironically he apologized to me for it, it was worse for him than for me," Tina Pagano said.
"Initially, you never think you're going to hear what you're about to hear," Chuck Pagano added. "Whether you play, coach or whatever, we all think we're invincible and nothing like this will ever happen to you."
Once the initial shock wore off, however, the couple knew what they had to do.
"It's not easy. It's shocking, but once you know what you're dealing with, and (Chuck's doctor) was so great about just spelling everything out,” Tina said. “Once he gave us a plan, and once he said the word, 'curable,' we knew we could deal with whatever we had to for 30 days," she added.
Meanwhile, the Pagano’s told WTHR-13 today that they are happy and grateful for many things, including the supportive response they received from the community and doctors during the coach’s recovery from leukemia.
Tina Pagano told the local NBC affiliate that she was determined to stay strong for her husband’s sake.
"We had this calendar up there and we looked at each other, you know, the very first day and said, 'You know what? Thirty days? We can do anything for 30 days, to live. We can.' So I just tried to look at it like, with what he had to go through," Tina Pagano said. "What he's doing is so much harder than what I'm doing. I am not going to contribute to his pain. I'm not going to cry and be weepy in this room. It's nothing compared to what he's going through."
Married for 24 years, Mrs. Pagano told WTHR-13 that her husband’s cancer treatment gave the couple an opportunity to be together unlike they ever have before.
"I've never spend that much time with (Coach Pagano). I feel like we have a new relationship," she said.
Indeed, it was Tina who asked about the bruises that were developing on her husband’s skin for no apparent reason, prompting the coach to promise he’d have them checked out during a break when he was just three weeks into the football season.
Now that Coach Pagano’s has completed his cancer treatment and appears well on the road to a complete recovery, he and his wife say they can look back and agree that the ordeal has been a very humbling experience.