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For San Francisco 49ers coach Johnny Holland, Super Bowl LVIII isn't his biggest challenge

Niners coach faces bigger challenge than Super Bowl
For San Francisco 49ers coach Johnny Holland, Super Bowl LVIII isn't his biggest challenge 02:35

Las Vegas — With just three days to go until their Super Bowl LVIII matchup with the Kansas City Chiefs, it's crunch time for the San Francisco 49ers. But win or lose, Niners linebackers coach Johnny Holland is cherishing every moment.

"Sunday is a great day because it's game day," Holland told CBS News. "But, you know, I found out now that every day is a great day. It's taught me a lot to see life in a different perspective."

Five years ago, after feeling pain in his shoulder and ribs, Holland was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a rare and incurable blood cancer.
"Immediately, I started chemo treatment and went on every day, going to work every day and go get chemo once a week," Holland said. "It probably took about six months to realize that, 'this is pretty serious that you're going through.'"

San Francisco 49ers v Las Vegas Raiders
San Francisco 49ers linebackers coach Johnny Holland on the sideline during a game against the Las Vegas Raiders at Allegiant Stadium on Jan. 1, 2023, in Las Vegas, Nevada.  Michael Zagaris / Getty Images

He's now a part of a clinical trial at the University of California, San Francisco Medical Center that's testing new treatments. 

"Immunotherapy utilizes the body's immune system to help fight the cancer," said Samantha Shenoy, a nurse practitioner who is coaching Holland through every visit. "To explain it simply, one arm attaches to the cancer cell, and one arm attaches to the body's own T cell. And so what it does, is it basically revs up the body's own immune system, revs up the body's T cell, to help attack the cancer."

The cause of multiple myeloma is unknown.

"Patients living with myeloma live with a lot of uncertainty," Shenoy said. "He faces that uncertainty with a really positive attitude."

Also unknown is why Black patients make up one in five new diagnoses, making Holland's participation in the trial a game changer.
"It's really important to have diversity within clinical trials so we can help answer some of these questions," Shenoy said.
Holland says football is his medicine, and he hopes his story inspires others to keep going and to keep fighting.
"So for me, to get in these trials is really extending my life," Holland said. "I just want to be able to use, and be in a trial that hopefully helps other people."

Super Bowl LVIII will air on CBS and Nickelodeon and stream on Paramount+ on Feb. 11 from Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas. Kickoff is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. ET.

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