By Ed Runyan
A Girard man who has battled a type of cancer called multiple myeloma for five years spent 12 weeks in Arkansas receiving treatments that he and his family hope will give him a lasting remission.
Bruce Gaugler, 52, a corrections officer with the Trumbull County Sheriff’s Office, returned home Dec. 18 from the University of Arkansas Medical Center and will get to stay home until Jan. 3, when he returns to Arkansas for additional chemotherapy.
“He’s excited to be home and be able to have the holiday with his family,” said Bruce’s wife, Bridget.
Bruce and Bridget traveled to Arkansas because a doctor there, Bart Barlogie, is known as the best in the world for treating the disease, Bridget said.
The Gauglers, who have six daughters age 17 to 32, also spent three weeks in Arkansas in June.
All of that traveling and time away have cost a great deal of money and time away from Bridget’s job in the medical field, so co-workers at the sheriff’s office had a fundraiser for the family in October.
Sarah Graham, one of the sheriff’s employees who organized it, said it’s easy to be motivated to help Bruce.
“I worked with him for six years. Even the inmates will say he is the best guy there,” she said. “His rapport with them is amazing.
“He goes above and beyond. He’d give you the shirt off of his back. Even when he’s sick, he’s the hardest working guy there. He never complains.”
Because of the extensive time Bruce has spent in treatment, he has used up all of his sick leave he had accumulated over his 15-year career with the county. Fortunately, co-workers have stepped forward to donate sick time to him so that he has been able to continue to receive his paycheck.
The cancer has been difficult on Bruce and the family, which includes daughters Stephanie Blose, Stacy Gaugler, Abbey Donnelly, Sara Gaugler, Taylor Donnelly and Erin Tobin.
“We try to keep it as normal as possible, but it changes your life,” Bridget said of the disease.
Before the most recent treatments, Bruce received care at Cleveland Clinic, but Bruce “exhausted everything they could do” Bridget said.
“In the last two years, he’s had eight different types of treatments, and nothing’s worked,” she said.
Bruce received a stem-cell transplant in 2008 at the Cleveland Clinic, which allowed him to go into remission for about 18 months.
The goal of his current course of treatment is to “put him in remission and keep him there,” Bridget said. “For some people it lasts for years,” she said.
The treatments from Dr. Barlogie are at the Myeloma Institute for Research and Therapy and involve using two to six types of chemotherapy at the same time.
Bruce will be on chemotherapy for the rest of his life for maintenance of the disease, Bridget said.
Multiple myeloma starts in the plasma cells in the bone marrow and makes tumors in the bone, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
Plasma cells help the body fight infection by producing proteins called antibodies. In multiple myeloma, plasma cells grow out of control in the bone marrow and form tumors in areas of solid bone.
Multiple myeloma causes a low red-blood cell count (anemia), which makes a person more likely to get infections and have abnormal bleeding.
As the cancer cells grow in the bone marrow, pain, often occurs in the ribs or back.
Dr. Barlogie founded the myeloma program at the University of Arkansas in 1989 and has seen more than 10,000 patients from every state in the United States and more than 50 foreign countries, according to the hospital’s website.