WWE wrestler Roman Reigns revealed on Monday's episode of Raw that, due a serious medical issue, his time as champion will have to be cut short. Reigns, whose real name is Leati Joseph Anoa'i, announced that he's been dealing with leukemia for over a decade. And, because it has recently come back, he will be (temporarily) stepping away from the action.
"I feel like I owe everybody an apology," Reigns began. "For months, maybe even a full year, I've come out here and spoke as Roman Reigns, and I said a lot of things. I said I'd be here every week, I said I'd be a fighting champion, I said I was gonna be consistent, and I said I was gonna be a workhorse." But, he continued, those were all lies.
"The reality is, my real name is Joe and I've been living with leukemia for 11 years," he said. "And, unfortunately, it's back."
"Because the leukemia is back, I cannot fulfill my role, I can't be that fighting champion, and I'm gonna have to relinquish the Universal Championship," Reigns explained. Although he's not looking for sympathy, Reigns says he'll "take every prayer" people can send his way.
He went on to explain that he was originally diagnosed with the condition when he was 22 and was "very quickly" able to get it into remission. "But I'm not gonna lie, that was the hardest time of my life," he said. "I didn't have a job, I didn't have any money, I didn't have a home, and I had a baby on the way, and football was done with me." Reigns, who formerly played football for the Minnesota Vikings and Jacksonville Jaguars, said the team that actually gave him a chance was the WWE.
"When I finally made it to the main roster and I was on the road, they put me in front of all of you," he said. "And to be honest, you all have made my dreams come true."
Leukemia refers to a group of cancers that affect blood cells, which are normally produced by bone marrow.
These cells are an important part of the immune system, but in people with leukemia, their bone marrow makes abnormal white blood cells, red blood cells, or platelets, MedlinePlus explains. There are several different types of leukemia, which may grow quickly (acute) or slowly (chronic), and can cause symptoms like fatigue, weakness, fever, unexplained weight loss, and pain or a feeling of fullness under the ribs.
Treatment and long-term outlook both depend on the type of leukemia, whether or not it has spread, your age, and your overall health. Your treatment plan may involve chemotherapy, radiation therapy, surgery, and a bone marrow transplant, the Mayo Clinic explains.
With treatment, it's possible for leukemia to go into remission, meaning that the signs and symptoms of cancer have significantly decreased. And, according to the National Cancer Institute, over 61 percent of those diagnosed with leukemia will live at least five years. But, research suggests that getting leukemia into remission is often much more difficult the second time around.
"I want to make one thing clear—by no means is this a retirement speech," Reigns said Monday. "Because after I'm done whoopin' leukemia's ass once again, I'm coming back home… I will beat this and I will be back. So you will see me very, very soon."