NBC 5’s Rob Stafford taking leave for bone marrow transplant

Rob Stafford

Rob Stafford, veteran broadcast journalist and principal news anchor at WMAQ-Channel 5, said Wednesday he will undergo a bone marrow transplant and chemotherapy to treat a rare blood disorder. “My prognosis is very good,” he said.

Stafford, 58, told colleagues at the NBC-owned station he will be treated at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, for amyloidosis, an incurable condition that has affected his kidneys.

“They say a bone marrow transplant using my own stem cells and chemotherapy is clearly the best option for me,” he wrote. “Two-thirds of amyloid transplant patients go into remission, and my doctors are confident I will be one of them.”

Stafford said he will leave Friday and “will be off the anchor desk for several months as I undergo this procedure, live in a sterile environment, rebuild my immune system and recover from the effects of chemo.”

Frank Whittaker, station manager and vice president of news at NBC 5, said: “We wish Rob the best of luck in the weeks ahead, and can’t wait for his return to our newsroom.”

During Stafford’s extended absence, weekend news anchor Dick Johnson will be his primary substitute alongside Allison Rosati on the station’s 5, 6 and 10 p.m. weekday newscasts, Whittaker said.

A New Hampshire native and graduate of Macalaster College in St. Paul, Minnesota, Stafford began his career in Duluth, Minnesota, and later worked for stations in Green Bay, Wisconsin, and Orlando, Florida, before joining CBS-owned WBBM-Channel 2 in 1992. He was hired as a Chicago-based correspondent for the NBC News magazine “Dateline” in 1996.

Since 2007 Stafford has been an anchor and reporter for NBC 5. He was promoted to main co-anchor with Rosati in 2009. He also serves on the station’s investigative reporting team.

Stafford’s announcement closely follows the disclosure by longtime sports anchor Mike Adamle that he has been diagnosed with dementia, which is believed to be the final stage of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), resulting from his years as a pro football player. Adamle will not be returning to NBC 5.

Here is the text of Stafford’s note to NBC 5 staff:

First the good news. They caught “it” early and my prognosis is very good. “It” is amyloidosis, a rare blood disorder where an abnormal protein (amyloid) is produced in bone marrow and can be deposited in organs. Before you read some scary stuff online, two facts: I’m an early stage 2 out of 4 and so far the effects are confined to my kidneys. I’m very lucky.
 
My persistent wife, Lisa, gets the credit for the early diagnosis. She pushed me to pursue the cause of a slightly elevated protein level discovered during a physical (“Relax. No big deal,” I said. “I feel fine and I don’t have time for this.”) Lisa found a smart Chicago nephrologist who ordered a kidney biopsy. He sent the sample to the Mayo Clinic, which quickly identified amyloidosis, even though it’s a tricky thing to diagnose. Again … very lucky.

The Mayo hematologists are among the best amyloid experts in the world. They say a bone marrow transplant using my own stem cells and chemotherapy is clearly the best option for me. Two-thirds of amyloid transplant patients go into remission and my doctors are confident I will be one of them.
 
I head to Minnesota first thing Friday and will be off the anchor desk for several months as I undergo this procedure, live in a sterile environment, rebuild my immune system and recover from the effects of chemo.
 
For the record, I did not wait for the end of sweeps to schedule this. In fact, Dave [Doebler, president and general manager of NBC 5] and Frank [Whittaker] told me not to wait, but March 3 was the first opening on the Mayo schedule after the required medical tests. I thank the bosses for all their support, Allison [Rosati] for her prayers, [weatherman Brant] Miller for his humor and DJ [Dick Johnson] for covering while I went back and forth to Mayo.
 
I consider this early diagnosis a gift that left to my own devices I would not have received. I’m going to take full advantage of my good fortune and hit this head on with the most aggressive and proven treatment available.
 
I will announce this at the end of the 10:00 news tonight and share it on social media. As I go through the process, I will also post updates on Facebook. I can’t wait to get ahead of this and back to the desk and all of you. Wish me luck!