- Tania Ganguli, ESPN Houston Texans reporter
- 0 Shares
HOUSTON -- There were difficult moments. There was pain. There was nausea, and the shock of knowing the skin cancer he had battled for two decades was getting so aggressive.
But Houston Texans owner Bob McNair has always been an optimistic man. He never thought cancer would beat him, and it didn't.
On Monday, McNair, 77, had a doctor's appointment that confirmed his body remained cancer-free. After an offseason of treatment that included surgery, radiation and chemotherapy, McNair said his improved health was well worth the fight.
"Somebody asked me what my plans are," he said. "I said, 'Well I plan on winning some Super Bowls. That's what we're here for.' They said do you have enough time to do it? I said my dad lived to be 102, so I think I have enough time."
McNair has battled skin cancer for about 20 years, the legacy of college summers as a lifeguard with no sunscreen. He regularly saw a dermatologist to handle unusual growths. Five years ago, he also was diagnosed with a chronic condition called chronic lymphocytic leukemia, a slow-moving blood and bone marrow disease. The intersection of the two conditions caused an occurrence of skin cancer that moved unusually aggressively.
That news came in early January, McNair said, just days after the Texans hired coach Bill O'Brien. A swollen salivary gland indicated to doctors their treatment would need to get aggressive.
"There is a strange interaction that occurs between skin cancer and chronic lymphocytic leukemia," said Dr. Michael Keating, a specialist in CLL patient care and research at MD Anderson Cancer Center, where McNair received treatment. "Bob was mentioning the decrease in the immune system is part of that."
McNair underwent treatment at MD Anderson Cancer Center. Doctors from the Baylor College of Medicine consulted on his treatments. He checked in under an assumed name and kept his condition quiet. He didn't want to be a distraction to the team. But he also didn't want speculation about whether or not he would survive. He prefers to ignore negativity.
His wife, Janice, a breast cancer survivor, drove him to and from most of his appointments. Sometimes his son Cal, the Texans' chief operating officer, drove him instead.
"Cancer is a bad word," Cal said. "To have that and to have it related to your dad, it's frightening. He's an optimistic person, he was able to beat cancer ... Thank goodness really he was here in Houston where the best care is."
Through phone conversations with Cal and general manager Rick Smith every day and O'Brien every other day, McNair stayed current on his team. When his immune system was strong enough, McNair sometimes came into the Texans' facilities.
In the midst of draft prep, he watched film of potential draft picks, especially quarterbacks -- Johnny Manziel, Teddy Bridgewater, Blake Bortles, Tom Savage and Jimmy Garoppolo. He didn't watch Jadeveon Clowney -- he'd seen enough of him to be confident he was the best player in that draft.
"He was always asking me questions and wanting to know more. Challenging me, like he does. I could tell he was very interested and very in tune with what was going on," McNair said.
His battle might lend perspective to the perceived pain of handling a 2-14 season. To McNair, though, spending so much time at a hospital even lent him perspective.
"I made a comment [in January] about kicking 2013 out the door, I didn't want to see it again," McNair said. "At that point in time I didn't realize how much I wanted to kick it out the door and never see it again.
"Everybody has problems. Everybody has health problems from time to time. One of the things being around hospitals, you find out there are a lot of people how are a lot worse off than you are. Don't come whining around here. Just go out and do what you need to do."
Houston Texans owner Bob McNair has always been an optimistic man. He never thought cancer would beat him, and it didn't.