Colts Coach Pagano diagnosed with leukemia

Chuck Pagano

Colts owner Jim Irsay is confirming reports that Colts Coach Chuck Pagano has been diagnosed with a treatable form of leukemia.

Irsay said Pagano had been feeling fatigued over the past few weeks and noticed some bruising. Pagano is expected to miss at least six weeks of the season while he remains in isolation during treatment. 

Offensive coordinator Bruce Arians will act as coach in Pagano's absence. Irsay said it was Pagano's recommendation and that Irsay gave the plan his blessing.

"Chuck has laid a foundation here that is on rock solid ground. We'll continue his fight," Arians promised. He also said that as a cancer survivor himself, he knows how hard it can be.

Arians said he was confident that Pagano would win his battle with leukemia, and in his absence, "this football team will survive...we won't miss a beat."

Irsay said it's unlikely Pagano will be "all in" as a head coach this season, although if he recovers quickly enough he could have a limited role contributing to the team later in the season.

Irsay called it a "difficult blow" for Pagano and his family.

"The case here is he will battle and get this disease in remission. It's a marathon. There's no question about it," said Irsay, calling Pagano "very dear to this organization."

Dr. Larry Cripe, a hematologist at IU Simon Cancer Center, is Pagano's doctor. He said the coach came in to be evaluated for bruising last Wednesday night. Once the diagnosis of acute promyelocytic leukemia (cancer of the bone marrow tissue) was confirmed, Pagano's treatment began.

Dr. Cripe says the goal is to cure Pagano, but he said that the process will take a long time. Right now Pagano's treatment is in the induction phase, which will last up to six weeks. The goal of this phase of treatment is to achieve "complete remission," the doctor said. Dr. Cripe says most patients diagnosed with this type of leukemia will achieve complete remission. About 1,300 adults are diagnosed with this type of leukemia every year in the United States.

Pagano's treatment includes chemotherapy, transfusions, antibiotics and other medications to minimize side effects, Dr. Cripe said. Pagano is currently in isolation due to his weakened immune system, and he'll be allowed to go home when he's feeling better and his blood counts are safe.

After the induction phase, the coach will still have to go through several more cycles of chemo over a period of several months. The doctor says he'll be able to engage in normal life to a limited degree during that time. Doctors will still monitor him closely over the next two years to make sure there are no signs of relapse.

The 51-year-old Pagano is in his first season as a head coach. He was hired in January after serving as the Baltimore Ravens' defensive coordinator. Pagano earned his first win Sept. 16 against the Vikings. The Colts (1-2) had a bye last weekend.

The team has requested that fans do not send flowers. You're encouraged to send a card to the Colts complex at 7001 West 56th Street, Indianapolis, 46254.