When Roman Reigns came to the ring to open Monday Night Raw last night, WWE fans realized quickly something was wrong.
He was dressed in street clothes — a tee shirt and jeans — and looked relaxed and out of character. After interacting with some fans, he then looked out and started to give a speech.
Roman Reigns said he’d lied to fans about being there every week and being a fighting champion. The reason? Because he was going to have to surrender his WWE Universal Championship because he is fighting a very real battle with leukemia.
“My real name is Joe and I’ve been living with leukemia for 11 years and, unfortunately, it’s back and because the leukemia is back, I cannot fulfill my role,” Reigns said. “I can’t be that fighting champion.”
EXCLUSIVE: Moments after announcing that his returning leukemia has forced him to relinquish the Universal Championship, @WWERomanReigns is met with an outpouring of support backstage. #Raw pic.twitter.com/JRv0iYLILJ
— WWE (@WWE) October 23, 2018
Roman Reigns’ leukemia: What does it mean?
Roman Reigns, real name Leati Joseph Anoaʻi, is a 33-year-old professional wrestler in the WWE. However, he is also a husband and a father of three children, including twin sons.
Stepping back from wrestling will allow the former football player to go home to his family and fight this battle head on in a bid to beat leukemia once again.
Roman contracted leukemia when he was 22-years-old. At that time, his life was much different than it is now.
“When I was 22 years old, I was diagnosed with this and very quickly I was able to put it in remission, but I’m not gonna lie, that was the hardest time in my life,” Reigns 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.”
Two years after Roman beat leukemia the first time, he started his career with the WWE.
This time around, Roman Reigns has the WWE backing him. He can afford the best doctors in the world — but that doesn’t make it easy.
What is leukemia?
According to WebMD, leukemia is a disease that often affects children, but adults can get it as well. There is nothing that a person can do to prevent leukemia.
Leukemia is a cancer of the blood cells caused by a rise in the white blood cells in the body as they crowd out the red blood cells — which is what the body needs to remain healthy.
These white blood cells affect the way the major organs work and can cause blood clotting and keep the body from fighting infections. It can also cause anemia, bruising and bleeding.
The treatment for leukemia includes chemotherapy, radiation treatment, biological therapy, targeted therapy, stem cell transplants or surgery.
According to the WWE, the reason that Roman Reigns made the announcement on Monday Night Raw was that he wants to “raise awareness in order to advance cures for the disease”.
WWE superstars send out support for Roman Reigns
Many WWE superstars have reached out via social media to offer their support for Roman Reigns’ leukemia fight.
‘Courage – strength in the face of pain or grief.’ You have given us your everything including a courageously vulnerable moment. We, your WWE family, give you all of our love and support. #ThankYouRoman #NeverGiveUp
— John Cena (@JohnCena) October 23, 2018
I’m just learning now of @WWERomanReigns leukemia diagnosis. Stunned. I liked and respected him from the moment I met him. Sending my very best wishes and prayers for you, Joe.
— Mick Foley (@RealMickFoley) October 23, 2018
— Vince McMahon (@VinceMcMahon) October 23, 2018
.@WWERomanReigns YOU gave us the gift of your work ethic in NXT. You gave us the gift of your athleticism & determination in the ring. You gave us the gift of your knowledge in the locker room. But your comeback match will be the greatest gift of all. We are all looking fwd to it
— Ms. WrestleMania (@MsCharlotteWWE) October 23, 2018
Roman Reigns will be going home to fight a battle that most people can never fathom.
This is proof that professional wrestling and the WWE is just entertainment and the men and women we choose to cheer and boo are real humans.
By the time Roman Reigns left the WWE ring, the fans who normally boo him were chanting his name and that is the memory that this man needs as he goes home and starts a new battle.