August 21, 2014

Chuck Battaglia underwent a stem cell transplant at Duke after being diagnosed with multiple myeloma. “I was shocked at how easy and comfortable the process was. It’s almost unbelievable how fast I recovered. I feel so fortunate.”

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.




Multiple myeloma

and related blood diseases

Duke’s myeloma specialists use the latest medical advances to detect and treat myeloma at the earliest possible stage. Our advanced training and experience in the latest therapies, and our ongoing myeloma research, ensures you receive the best possible care for this blood cancer and related blood diseases. While myeloma cannot be cured, we develop a personalized treatment plan designed to control your myeloma, minimize painful symptoms, and maximize your quality of life.

Leaders in myeloma diagnosis and treatment

Multiple myeloma is a form of blood cancer that usually starts in and spread throughout the bone marrow. Left untreated, it can weaken your immune system and increase your risk for infection. Myeloma can lead to anemia and kidney damage, and cause bone pain and fractures.

As myeloma specialists, we are skilled in identifying and treating the complex distinctions between myeloma and related diseases. When myeloma cells develop into a single collection of cells, typically in the bone, it is called a solitary plasmacytoma. Multiple myeloma refers to the presence of several myeloma tumors. MGUS (monoclonal gammopathy of uncertain significance) and smoldering myeloma cause no symptoms, but refer to the development of abnormal cells that can eventually lead to multiple myeloma or related cancers. We also treat rare diseases related to myeloma, including POEMS syndrome, amyloidosis, and light or heavy chain deposition disease, and Waldenstrom’s macroglobulinemia, a form of lymphoma. Our advanced training and knowledge ensures you receive the best care for your specific condition.

As a National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center, we offer a level of expertise that can only be found in the top four percent of cancer centers across the country with this designation.  We treat 1,000 people with blood cancer each year, more than any other facility in North Carolina, and we have a team dedicated to working with people who have multiple myeloma. As a result, we are acutely aware of your needs. Following a comprehensive evaluation and exam, we design a personalized treatment plan that is right for you. For example, if you are experiencing smoldering myeloma or MGUS, which typically do not produce symptoms, we may recommend active surveillance of your myeloma. Young, healthy people with symptoms may tolerate more intensive therapies, while older or frail people may benefit from gentler treatment options. We routinely see people who travel to Duke for consultations, and work with physicians near your home to ensure you receive the optimal care for your stage and type of myeloma. 

Choose Duke for your multiple myeloma treatment because we offer:

  • Top ranked care. We are among the top cancer programs in the nation, according to U.S. News & World Report. We are also part of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN), an alliance of the nation’s leading cancer centers dedicated to improving patient care.
  • Team approach. Because myeloma can affect your blood, your bones, your kidneys, and other organs, you benefit from the close relationships our hematology/oncology specialists have with orthopaedic surgeons, kidney specialists, and other physicians throughout Duke who have extensive experience with myeloma. We discuss your care, collect opinions, and offer coordinated treatment recommendations and follow up.
  • Pioneering myeloma therapies. Our researchers bring new discoveries to the clinic every day. We develop and provide more new treatment options than most other cancer centers. We offer a wide range of clinical trials that may give you access to new drugs and new approaches not offered at other hospitals. For example, we offer clinical trials in bone marrow transplants and promising new drugs that are not yet available outside of a clinical trial. We also offer supportive care interventions such as exercise and stress management techniques, and senior adult assessments. Many of these approaches were pioneered at Duke and now offer new hope to people with myeloma.
  • Comforting environment. Our new Duke Cancer Center features spacious waiting areas, a Quiet Room, large infusion rooms, and a rooftop garden area where people may be able to receive their chemotherapy outdoors.
  • Personalized care and support for you and your family. Our comprehensive support services are here for you throughout your treatment journey. We help minimize the side effects of treatment, and offer support to help you cope with the emotional and psychological effects of diagnosis and treatment. You may also utilize our services focusing on nutrition, guided imagery, anxiety control, and meditation. Our cancer survivorship clinic pulls together a range of resources specially designed to help you after your treatment ends.

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