In an interview with Bob Dillner which aired on Monday’s episode of Speed51’s “The Morning Bullring,” famed Florida Super Late Model racer David Rogers updated fans on his status after undergoing a medical procedure which proved to be more dramatic than he or anyone could have expected.
Rogers had initially underwent a stomach surgery, as initially reported when Bubba Pollard substituted for Rogers during the World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing at New Smyrna Speedway. However, during the operation, doctors diagnosed him with lymphoma.
“It started out, like everybody was told to start with, a simple surgery,” Rogers said. “When I came out, it was a pretty serious situation.
“I went to the doctor right before Christmas,” Rogers continued. “Right after Christmas, I went to do the colonoscopy. That all started the 26th or 27th. I guess, gosh, it was the 29th, it progressed that quick, that’s when I went in and got the surgery.”
Doctors are optimistic that Rogers’ lymphoma is very treatable as he prepares for chemotherapy.
“I went and had to go to an oncologist,” Rogers stated. “I had two bouts. I had to go back and have another CT scan done to see how this stuff is left inside me, if it’s progressing. It’s supposedly very aggressive, but that also helps because, by being aggressive, it’s more treatable. When they do the chemo, basically, when they inject you with that stuff, the type that I have attacks anything that gets in your body. Right now, it’s using me up. Anything I eat, it devours that, so I can’t get energy, I just can’t get going.”
With an understanding of why Rogers had been feeling so poorly, the fight against cancer begins Tuesday for the Florida champion of asphalt racing.
“We start treatment on Tuesday,” Rogers explained. “That’s really sooner than what they really wanted to do, but at this point, we’re damned if we do and damned if we don’t. If we don’t start the treatment, then we’re afraid it’s going to grow, get worse or attached to something that would cause more problems than what we’ve got now. Hopefully, I’m healed well enough on the inside [from the prior operation] so that won’t cause complications.
“I’ve got six treatments. They’re every 21 days apart. You take a treatment, you take a pill for five days, then you rest for ten days or whatever and go back for another treatment.”
During the interview, Rogers also discussed the build-up to Bubba Pollard driving Rogers’ famed TM Ranch No. 11 during the World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing at New Smyrna Speedway, before Rogers knew the gravity of his personal situation.
“Originally, I knew I wasn’t going to be able to race because of the way it transpired,” Rogers described. “The deal with Bubba, we had talked about it and been buddies with him. Steve Holland from TM’s and Sonny, Bubba’s dad, get along really well. We had become friends over time. We’d always ask Bubba, ‘Why don’t you come for a Speedweeks?’ He just basically said the expense doesn’t justify it. As much time as you spend down there and as much money, and they don’t pay anything.
“I said, well, the car’s ready, we wanted to go racing, all my guys wanted to go racing,” Rogers continued. “I asked them if Bubba would drive the car, put him in it, and that would kill two birds with one stone. That’ll let Bubba do something he’s never had the opportunity to do and let you guys continue to work. They asked, ‘Are you sure?’ Yeah, I’m good with that. We’ve got a good race car, a car that’s ready to go. Just because I can’t drive it doesn’t mean I don’t want somebody in it.
“At that time, I didn’t think it was going to be - this deal here, it’ll probably be another six months before I’m back in a race car,” Rogers concluded. “It is what it is.”
The interview gave Rogers a chance to explain and update fans on his status and dispel rumors he had begun to hear about his own condition.
“It progressed so quickly, I didn’t even know what was going on,” Rogers said. “You start hearing every different kind of rumor, so we decided to tell Bob (Dillner) so he can put the real story there, so people know what’s going on. We do have fans and people who want to know, and that way it will be what’s really going on, not what people are saying.”
Rogers recently visited his race shop and his team. It left him with mixed emotions, both knowing that he isn’t doing the same job he has done for four decades, but also giving him another reason to fight.
“It was kind of a good/bad deal,” Rogers said about the shop visit. “It was good because I’ve been doing this for 45 years religiously. I started when I was basically a senior in high school, I think I was 18 years old when I first started driving. There was a lot of things I didn’t go to, like weddings and stuff, because I raced. There were times, one year we raced 106 times that year. Racing has been my life.
“To wake up from that surgery, look down, and have a bag and be in the situation I was in, I was like, ‘Mm, I guess racing’s over.’ But it’s not,” Rogers continued. “It’s possible that it is, because the more important thing right now is staying alive. If I stay alive, then I can work on going back racing. But it was tough, knowing the car’s going to be sitting there. We had talked and let Bubba drive, then I’d be ready to go the first race at Pensacola. Well, that’s definitely not going to happen. Now, we’re talking long, long term.
“It’s also goals that give me something to drive for other than being with my family long-term. It gives me that want to go back racing, to get through this stuff and fight through it.”
Rogers admits to having moments of fear while facing lymphoma, but maintains a positive outlook and his faith as he begins the battle against it.
“The unknown is always scary,” Rogers admitted. “The more I’m around these doctors, the scareder I get. Every doctor is a specialist. They’re concentrating on their specialty, and they don’t really take into compass everything that’s going on. I’m going to an oncologist that’s going to give me the chemo, and they don’t understand why my blood does this and that. Then I go, ‘I have a bag.’ I’m not using my internal organs right now. I’m losing water. Then it’s like, okay, that makes sense. But they’re the doctors, they’re the ones that are supposed to know all this. It makes you nervous at that point, like, oh gosh.
“As far as being okay with it, I’m okay with it simply because I feel it’s one of those things that’s in God’s hands,” Rogers added. “If he gives me the strength to fight through it, that’s what will happen. As far as I’m concerned, I can do it. The doctors talk extremely well about the type of lymphoma that I have. While it’s extremely aggressive, they say it’s very treatable. They don’t ever talk curable, they say treatable. I’ve talked to some people who have had this type of lymphoma for 30 years. They have to go back and get tested regularly. It’ll pop up, they’ll get treated, and you’re good to go. It’s not something that I’m going to be 100 percent cured when the treatments are done, but it’s supposedly treatable and I can live a normal life.”
Rogers has been very thankful for everyone who has supported him so far in this journey, but is most thankful for his wife.
“The biggest thing is my wife. She’s just been a rock. She’s been right there to whole time, right beside me, saying we can do it. She has prayer teams, people all over the country praying for us, because she’s big into the religious end of it. I’ve got plenty of faith in what’s going to happen and what is happening.”
Fans who missed “The Morning Bullring” and wish to see the show in its entirety can click here for the on-demand replay of the broadcast. Fans can also visit the Speed 51 Five Star Bodies Facebook Feed to watch the replay of the broadcast. Be sure to like Speed 51 on Facebook and turn on notifications, so you can be alerted when “The Morning Bullring” comes on each Monday at 7:30 a.m. ET.
The full extended interview with Rogers will be available in podcast form later this week on "The Morning Bullring" podcast channel on iTunes and Google Play.
-Story by: Zach Evans, Speed51.com Southeast Editor – Twitter: @ztevans
-Photo credit: Speed51.com