Two months after undergoing a stem cell transplant at Duke, Chuck Battaglia was right back to playing tennis, golf and the activities he loves.
“I asked them to give me some of Roger Federer’s, Tiger Woods’ and Coach K’s stem cells,” the active, 72-year-old retired banker joked. “But apparently nobody gave me them because my games have not improved.”
Battaglia’s recovery, and his procedure, were painless and quick. “I was shocked at how easy and comfortable the process was,” he says in a more serious tone during a recent, follow-up appointment at Duke. “It’s almost unbelievable how fast I recovered. I feel so fortunate.”
Battaglia was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a blood cancer that usually starts in the bone marrow, after a routine blood test taken during his annual physical came back abnormal. He was referred to a cancer specialist near his home in Hendersonville, NC, who treated him for nine months before referring Battaglia to Duke to discuss the option of having a stem cell transplant.
“As a myeloma patient, I could have continued going to my doctor for treatment,” Battaglia said, “or I could undergo stem cell replacement and be relieved of the weekly visits.”
After seeing Duke bone marrow specialist Cristina Gasparetto, MD, Battaglia learned he was eligible for an autologous stem cell transplant, which requires removal of his own stem cells through an IV, followed by a high dose of chemotherapy to wipe out the cancerous cells. His stem cells were then returned to him through an IV to generate growth of new, healthy cells. The entire outpatient process took about one month.
“The worst part was the collection of stem cells, which took six hours each day,” recalls Battaglia. “You’re just sitting in a chair watching TV.” The side effect of chemotherapy wasn’t so great either. “It was like the worst flu you could imagine.”
Battaglia and his wife, Jan, spent the next five weeks living nearby in a condo arranged through the bone marrow transplant clinic, and going to the clinic for follow-up tests to monitor his progress.
“Somebody has put together a helluva program here,” says Battaglia. “From the moment you walk in, they help you arrange housing, and address your financial circumstance. The medical staff was fabulous.”
Jan agrees. “I commend the support system that the caregiver gets in the clinic. “We had weekly meetings. It was good to share our experiences. They also encouraged us to get out of the clinic, take a walk, get coffee. They wanted us to take care of ourselves.”
With his stem cell transplant and multiple myeloma diagnosis behind him, Battaglia is back to enjoying an active life full time. After his appointment, he and Jan were setting off on a weeks-long road trip across America.
“We call life an adventure,” he says with a smile.