Q&A: Roman Reigns Turns Cancer Diagnosis Into a Positive

Author:
Publish date:
WWE’s Roman Reigns on stage during Raw

Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins will wrestle tonight on Fox to decide which brand—Raw or SmackDown—receives the number one pick in the WWE draft. If Reigns wins, the top selection will go to SmackDown, and if Rollins wins, then it belongs to Raw.

Since returning in February from his second bout with leukemia, Reigns has provided a new face for those seeking additional inspiration in their fight against cancer. And the 34-year-old Joe Anoa’i is now making his biggest contribution, having found the perfect tag team partner in the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

Reigns spoke with Sports Illustrated about the new partnership with LLS, as well as touched on his friendship with Ron “R-Truth” Killings.

Justin Barrasso: How did your partnership with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society come together, and how did you turn such a negative moment—announcing that your cancer had returned—into a positive?

Roman Reigns: That’s the crazy part, this all started as a negative and it was such a hard announcement last October. But simply telling the truth and sharing my story, I could immediately feel something positive in my core. The live crowd that night was there for a wrestling show, and they had this real-life news put on their doorstep, which was a lot from them to take in—and they forgot about the show, the wrestling, and the character—and they focused on me, Joe. I’ll never forget that.

That support continued to pour in through the company and on social media, and I had so many different children send me videos that meant the world to me and just lit me up. I felt that love and that support, and I knew I had to pay it forward. So I’m going to continue to maximize this support, and I’m going to take that spotlight to help others with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

JB: You have expressed immense gratitude to family, friends, and the WWE, who were all standing beside you during your fight. You now have the chance to bring your WWE Universe to children battling an unfair and cruel disease. As a father, and a champion of kids throughout the world, what does it mean to represent such brave, resilient children?

RR: I play one of WWE’s heroes, but when I go to these hospitals and interact with children fighting these terrible diseases, I am reminded very quickly that they’re the true heroes.

These little superheroes are so young, and there is still so much for them to experience. They are fighting, with relentless determination, for another tomorrow. It’s hard on the families, it’s hard on the patients, so I’m sharing my support system with these children. They’re not alone. They have me. It’s not enough for me just to wrestle. I need to do more.

JB: Your goal is to help life people up during their toughest moments. Someone who did that in your own life is Ron “R-Truth” Killings, who is currently adding a lot to the company as 24/7 champion. What makes Ron so special? And what has his friendship meant to you?

RR: Ronnie is my best friend. He’s right there with the Usos, he’s like blood to me.

We first started riding together six years ago. He used to always tell me, ‘Be that babyface, baby. Always be kind to people.’ We’ve been tight for a long time, and he’s one of the greatest of all-time.

I know our very passionate, hardcore fans are very familiar with his talent and they’ve seen his body of work, but it just makes me so happy that everyone is getting to see it now. Truth can be silly, he can be serious, he can do it all. He’s like that in real life, too. Truth is one of the most positive, charismatic people to be around. He enjoys being kind to people. He’s a real-life babyface.

JB: It’s remarkable what the support of a friend can do for someone’s soul. Now you’re doing the same through your commitment with LLS, advocating for patients and families fighting cancer. How can people around the world help in the fight against cancer?

RR: Give hope. I was knocked down and I got back up. Real life happens, but there is never a problem in leaning on each other for support. That’s how I got through. Have people’s back and continue to help people, and I’m going to do the same.

Justin Barrasso can be reached at JBarrasso@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @JustinBarrasso.