Russell Galle’s Survivor Story

Ocean Springs’ resident Russell Galle would give anything to be back behind his torch, helmet down, merging metal. For two years he worked as a welder with VT Halter Marine in Pascagoula, Mississippi, where he enjoyed being part of the talented shipbuilding team. But the day he could no longer carry his tools to work, he knew something was terribly wrong.

In fact, his wife Robyn had been urging him to see a doctor for some time.

“I just don’t know what I would do without my wife. I met her on a blind date in 1983, and she has been my guardian angel ever since,” said Russell.

It was the summer of 2013 when the symptoms first began. At first he just felt a little tired. Then he gradually started losing weight. By the fall he had lost nearly thirty pounds, was unable to get out of bed and could no longer work. Fluid was also accumulating in his lungs. That’s when Robyn brought him to Ocean Springs Hospital and the fight for his life began.

Following rounds of testing including a cat scan and biopsy of Russell’s lymph nodes, Dr. Benjamin Gatewood of Singing River Health System’s Regional Cancer Center identified the disease and diagnosed him in April of 2014. Tests revealed that Russell had a rare disease called multicentric Castleman disease.

According to the American Cancer Society, Multicentric Castleman disease (MCD) is a rare condition that affects the lymph nodes and related tissues and acts very much like lymphoma, which is why it is included in the American Cancer Society’s cancer information. It is a form of Castleman disease that is “systemic” and affects multiple sets of lymph nodes and other tissues throughout the body.

“If it hadn’t been for the hospital team, my wife and Dr. Gatewood, I would have died,” said Russell. “I would not be here today–and that’s a fact.”

Dr. Gatewood prescribed drug therapy as the course of treatment beginning in June of 2014. Over the last year, Russell has regained some strength and close to half of the weight he had lost. He still has a long road ahead with ongoing testing and treatment for this disease, but he puts great faith in his medical team at Singing River Health System.

“I am so glad I have them. The team here at the Regional Cancer Center makes me feel so comfortable,” Russell shared. “Dr. Gatewood really cares about us and spends more time talking to me than any other doctor I’ve ever met–and that says a world to me.”

While he misses being an active welder, Russell now enjoys spending quality time with his grandkids. “I am just thankful now to be with them,” he said.

His wife agrees. “I was so relieved when Dr. Gatewood said he could stay here and be treated at home,” said Robyn. “I am so grateful to this man and to Singing River for helping him.”

Discover more about Singing River Health System’s Cancer Care Services.