When Gene Travers, an avid golfer, spent 14 days in an isolation room following his bone marrow transplant at Stony Brook University Medical Center last spring, he brought a putting green with him. And upon release from the hospital, Travers immediately took off for a golf vacation in North Carolina.
In September he joined 100 fellow bone marrow transplant patients at Dr. Michael W. Schuster’s annual Celebration of Life event and spotted John Sutter, a local golf pro he had known for more than 20 years. Although delighted to run into his old golf friend, it was the woman Sutter was with—whom Travers had never met—that really thrilled him.
It turned out that Sutter’s friend, Susan Yang, had also been treated by Dr. Schuster for multiple myeloma and had been the recipient of a bone marrow transplant seven years earlier. The joy of seeing Yang strong and healthy seven years after her transplant trumped Travers’s passion for golf—and gave him another reason to be hopeful.
“The amazing thing about people with this disease is that everybody is so positive,” said Travers.
Indeed, hopefulness filled the air at the recent celebration on the Port Jefferson Ferry, sponsored by Times Beacon Record Newspapers and Lombardi’s market. The event was organized by Schuster, who is Director of Hematologic Malignancies and Director of Bone Marrow and Blood Stem Transplantation at Stony Brook University Hospital and Professor of Medicine, Stony Brook University School of Medicine.
The Bone Marrow and Blood Stem Cell Transplantation Program at Stony Brook provides comprehensive transplantation services for patients in need of a transplant to cure their disease. Earlier this year, under Schuster’s leadership, Stony Brook received approval from the National Marrow Donor Program (NMDP) to be an NMDP allogeneic (stem cells from another person) transplant center.
Also on hand for the celebration were Schuster’s renowned team of professionals, many of whom have been with him for more than 20 years.
“This annual cruise, which I’ve been organizing for many years, is really an inspiration for all of us,” said Schuster. “It’s not only a highlight of the year for patients and their families but also for our whole staff. It reminds us of why we come back every day to do what we do.”
Schuster particularly acknowledges several Stony Brook employees for helping to organize this year’s celebration and making it a success: Kathleen Noone, Assistant Director of Nursing in Patient Cancer Services and Department of Radiation Oncology, and her staff, as well as Carrie Bhada, Senior Director of Development, and Colleen Hayes, Transplant Program Administrator.
Phyllis Antonucci brought photos from her bone marrow transplant more than 19 years ago, when her son and daughter were toddlers. She held the photo of herself, diagnosed with Hodgkins disease at the age of 30, with her two children dressed in isolation garb. Next to the old photo was a recent image of herself with her children, now 21 and 23 years old.
While Schuster is distinguished in his field—and his patients most appreciate his renowned expertise to treat their disease—it is the doctor’s compassion that shines through and touches their hearts. And it’s clear that they will continue to follow him wherever his career takes him.
The Bone Marrow and Blood Stem Cell Transplantation Program is a clinical and research program within Stony Brook University Cancer Center. The program physicians, nurses, and other health-care professionals provide comprehensive care for patients in need of a transplant, perform autologous and allogeneic transplants, enroll patients in national clinical trials, and seeks new methods for transplantation. The program includes a blood collection center and stem cell laboratory.