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After 25 years of writing about “heroes” #JennStrong and I finally get to meet a real one on Wednesday in Germany

Posted on 28 August 2016 by Nestor Aparicio

I’ve been hearing about heroes in sports since approximately 1973. I’ve been writing and talking about sports since 1984 and every season a new “hero” comes along in every sport, in every city where championships are won and modern parades are held.

Today I will ask a pair of questions with some “deep thoughts” for the day:

What is a hero?

And what do you say to them when you finally meet one?

I’ve had a lot of time to think about what I’m going to write (and say) about my wife meeting the man who has (twice) selflessly saved her life via the bone marrow registry.

We’ve also talked about it on the radio this week. The (then) 21-year old man in Germany who twice saved my wife’s life asked the (very Freudian) question two summers ago when he donated bone marrow to keep her alive.

If you haven’t read his letter to her from 24 months ago, please read it. I called it the greatest letter ever written and I’ll stand by that.

You’ve probably seen some aspect of the fight of Jennifer Ford Aparicio, whom I married 13 years ago on a beach in Jamaica.

You’re probably reading this because you’ve witnessed her courageous battle for her life.

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Maybe you’ve seen a bald picture of her smiling? Or perhaps a picture of our beloved cat, Kitty, licking her face when she weighed 90 pounds? Maybe you’re a childhood friend of ours through Dundalk or Manchester, New Hampshire, or perhaps we’ve collected you on our journey in life.

Through two battles with leukemia, Jennifer Ford Aparicio has spent 153 nights in a hospital bed, surrounded by a ghetto in East Baltimore, wondering if she was going to see the next sunrise.

Vomit. Blood. Tears. Pain. Agony. Fear. Horrific hospital food. Incredibly brilliant doctors. Nurses with empathy and compassion that goes beyond words. And modern medicine that has miraculously kept her alive through two heinous battles.

My wife has stared down death on the absolute end of the plank and persevered. She is lucky. She is strong. She is brave. She is incredible. She is grateful.

I am simply a witness writing about the greatest “comeback” I can possibly imagine.

#JennStrong has been back to work as a network engineer for almost 90 days and fighting with her insurance company (I routinely call them “heartless, profiteering, corporate pieces of shit” but you can call them Met Life) for six months. She has been dealing with all kinds of fallout ­ – physical, emotional, spiritual that I can’t even comprehend – from twice battling for her life over the past 30 months.

Here’s the current update:

Skin rashes. Tear ducts that no longer function and a scratched cornea. Bone fatigue. Weakness. Stiffness and pain in every joint. Lack of appetite. Lack of energy. Lack of life, even after surviving the battle for her life. She has napped every day since Sept. 30th of last year and still tries to find the energy she had before leukemia wiped out our normal quality of life and happiness in March 2014.

Meanwhile, her insurance has forced her back to working full time, even though her eyes haven’t fared as well as the rest of her body.

You notice how she looks.

She notices how she feels.

Some days are better than others. Folks say: “It’s good to see you.” She says: “It’s good to be seen.”

But this post-cancer recovery doesn’t ever seem to get any easier.

But, for one glorious weekend, this is a time of celebration and gratitude.

This story isn’t about her, but about him.

On Tuesday night, Jenn and I are flying to Frankfurt, Germany and on Wednesday afternoon, we’ll be two Americans eating Mongolian barbeque, watching soccer and drinking local bier with a 23-year old German man who selflessly, inexplicably and (then anonymously) saved my wife’s life on June 26, 2014 with a bag of bone marrow.

When her leukemia returned last September, he saved her life again on November 19, 2015 with another bag of blood – lymphocytes that were designed to bring on the graft vs. host disease that has made her so weak and frail in 2016.

Seriously…what do you say and how do you even comprehend such benevolence and generosity?

HE. SAVED. HER. LIFE.

T-W-I-C-E!

They are now genetic twins – DNA and science will tell you they are literally relatives from halfway around the world who’ve never met. If she left her blood at a crime scene, it would be identical to his blood. His engine makes her blood and keeps her alive.

Well, on Wednesday we’ll be having lunch and we’re going to try to figure out how to say “thank you” for her life and his generosity.

Just think about that for a moment? What would you say? How could you possibly say it?

A hug? Some tears of life? Some embrace of eternal gratitude? A beer? Some schnitzel and black forest cake?

My wife has been to hell and back.

Twice.

We found the man who saved her life on Facebook on the afternoon of June 30. He had no idea she was even alive. He has been extremely inquisitive. He speaks four languages, including English that’s better than most of my friends from Dundalk.

By now, he’s keenly aware of all aspects of her fight.

We don’t need to ask “why?”

We know why. He told us before we even knew him.

He saved her life because he could…

“I did this donation also out of deepest conviction. I didn’t do it because it’s highly regarded in society. No, I did this for you because I believe it is our assignment to help people when they need help the most.”

At the time, he was one of TWO people on earth who had the DNA match necessary to keep her breathing.

Now, we’re going to Germany to try to figure out the rest of the story. And how “angels” still exist.

I’ve been writing about “heroes” via sports for the last 32 years. I’ve been taking phone calls and chatting about sports “heroes” for 25 years.

Ray Lewis was a “hero” once. So was Joe Flacco. And Cal Ripken. And Brooks Robinson. And Johnny Unitas before that.

And blah, blah, blah…

The charity organization we’ve partnered with is called, There Goes My Hero – just like the Foo Fighters song. With your help, we’ve raised a bunch of money and awareness about leukemia and bone marrow transplants and the registry and asking you to take a lottery ticket on being a “hero.”

I think it’s appropriate David Bowie was inspired and wrote the song “Heroes” in Berlin, Germany.

We can be heroes just for one day…

On Wednesday when you’re having breakfast in Baltimore, I’ll get to finally meet a real hero in Bochum, Germany.

We’ll let you know how it goes…

If you want to meet him, we’ll be throwing a birthday party for him on Nov. 12th here in Baltimore. Hold the date. Come and meet a hero!

 

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JennStrong2 update: A Merry Christmas Miracle from The Hotel

Posted on 24 December 2015 by Nestor Aparicio

Yes, the most beautiful girl in the world is back at The Hotel – just in time for Christmas.

Sometimes you make a holiday wish and it really does comes true!

When she received a life-saving lymphocyte infusion on Nov. 19th, it was designed to do this – put her back into the hospital sometime between Day 30 and Day 60 post transfusion to experience GVHD (graft vs. host disease).

Now, we await the “natural chemotherapy” to take over and identify and attack her leukemia. The past month has been very difficult at home. She has rarely left bed over the past three weeks as this complex beast has taken over her body. As her blood counts rose and improved, her energy fell. As her bone marrow got stronger, so did the disease in attacking her.

It’s a helluva thing to witness – all of this. Jenn is very thin, very frail, and very uncomfortable. A friend asked me yesterday how she’s doing and all I’ve got for you is this: she truly hasn’t had a “good day” since August.

She spent 47 days at the hospital the first time. Then, four more after the cheesecake incident. Then, two more after the post-Thanksgiving pumpkin roll. We also did an all-nighter in the ER at Johns Hopkins (a.k.a. “hell”) on a Ravens game day morning.

Tonight, on Christmas Eve while her family gathers in New Hampshire for their traditional Polish kielbasa meal, Jenn will be spending her 112th night at Johns Hopkins in the cancer ward since March 2014.

As my mom has said: “She’s been through it…”

But it’s not over and we really don’t know where the end of this journey is leading or where the graft vs. host reaction will lead us in the coming weeks. I outlined the potential side effects here on Thanksgiving in my previous update about Jenn.

The doctors are using steroids to combat and control the GVHD. They’re also doing various things to keep her more comfortable and monitor her diabetes at the hospital. We expected a sunburn-ish rash but that hasn’t happened. Instead, it’s been high liver numbers and various cramping and all-over discomfort.

While she battles and heals, we’d love to remind you of some ways that you can help us help others in the fight.

There are two things you can do to help us during your holiday meals and visits.

Please encourage all of the healthy young people at your holiday meal to get on the bone marrow registry at deletebloodcancer.org or via www.ThereGoesMyHero.org. Tell them our story! This is how Jenn’s life was saved. We’re paying it forward by trying to get you to help us save more lives in the future.

Be a hero!

And if you’re still shopping after Christmas, please use our giveaspit.com app for your online purchases. This helps our partner at There Goes My Hero, who help local folks in the leukemia fight.

Please keep them in your thoughts as well. We lost a family friend’s daughter on Tuesday to leukemia. She was diagnosed 12 days ago and now she’s gone. It was so sudden, so incredibly sad and awful – simply beyond words.

She was 16. She was full of life. She loved sports. She was the niece of one of my incredible Dundalk High Class of 1985 classmates – a guy named Frank Vanik, who battled multiple sclerosis for three decades with such grace, dignity and “life” that it takes my breathe away.

I wanted to share this video of Michael Vick being kind to my pal Frank Vanik because it made him very happy toward the end of his journey on earth.

And we want to honor Frank’s memory – he was such an incredible pillar of strength and courage for Jenn and I and we think of him often – and his amazing, strong, beautiful family on this holiday as they’re suffering a tragedy at the hands of leukemia.

Keep them in your thoughts.

We’re sending massive holiday love to all who love us and strength to everyone who is in the fight…

Keep the faith!

Make someone happy! Eat! Drink! Love! Live!

Merry Christmas from us over at The Hotel

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#JennStrong2 Thanksgiving update: Now awaiting our holiday miracle…

Posted on 27 November 2015 by Nestor Aparicio

 

 

 

 

“You must be able to respond to your circumstances

as they exist – not as you would like them to be.”   

– Brian Billick

WNST.net partner & Super Bowl XXXV

Head Coach Baltimore Ravens

 

 

THE BONE MARROW TRANSPLANT NURSE said the blood – or more accurately the “lymphocytes” – would arrive at 2 p.m. At exactly 2:07 on Thursday, Nov. 19th, she walked in the room with another plastic bag filled with the red river of life. This was a much smaller bag than anything I’d ever seen attached to my wife’s tree of connected devices, medicines and fluids.

“We’re only giving her the stuff she needs,” the nurse said as she prepared to attach it to Jenn. So, this bag of T cells from a 22-year old man in Germany designed to stimulate a graft vs. host disease in her body to kill her leukemia this winter, took quite a circuitous route to her room on the fifth floor at Johns Hopkins last week.

The collection was done in Cologne. It was transferred to Frankfurt via train, then flown to J.F.K. Airport in New York, and then flown from Newark to BWI. It came with a delivery man named Udo in a taxi from outer Glen Burnie to Johns Hopkins. He spent the next three days hanging out at a hotel near Ferndale. Not incidentally – because this bag of lymphocytes is time sensitive – there was a complete backup plan with a different flight through Detroit (if necessary).

I’m not making this up.

Once it was connected to Jenn, gravity took over and the bag of lymphocytes flowed into her veins. The official prediction from the nurse was “less than an hour” but it only took 25 minutes once she began the drip at 2:22 p.m.

At 2:47 p.m. on the Thursday before Thanksgiving, we believe my wife’s life could be saved for the second time by this magnanimous – and for now, anonymous – angel across the Atlantic Ocean. On June 26, 2014, this German man sent a gigantic bag of bone marrow to save her life the first time. He wrote her this letter signed, “your genetic twin.”

They have genetically identical blood, which is why this will work. It’s why we’ve traveled the world and swabbed folks for the bone marrow registry since the beginning of her cancer. This is how lives are saved – matching folks with the same DNA. Coincidentally, both Jenn and her donor have “B Positive” blood.

And the week before Thanksgiving in America, he gave us something to be very “thankful” for and one day next summer we positively hope to meet him somewhere cool and thank him in person for saving her life – twice!

Of course, we wonder what we’ll say to him. And I wonder what they say to him when they ask him to do this? And, no doubt, they must say it in German, right?

It’s all so big, so incredible – like something in a movie that doesn’t even make sense.

The first time left us speechless. This second time – amidst a country here that’s seemingly lost its …

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A #JennStrong2 update: Cancer complicates things…

Posted on 08 November 2015 by Nestor Aparicio

 

“All of my life I’ve been a type 1 diabetic. I’ve always taken life day by day.”

– Bret Michaels

 

ON THE 34TH DAY OF HER SECOND battle with cancer, Jenn slept and vomited and slept some more and vomited some more. Needless to say, it’s been a rough fifth week here at The Hotel for my beautiful wife in this #Jennstrong2 journey to a new, cancer-free life.

When she was first diagnosed with leukemia in March 2014, our initial fear was that somehow her Type 1 Diabetes would factor into her prognosis and her ability to survive all that was about to happen to her 112-pound body during the first intense cancer treatment and chemotherapy. Until this week, it was always an issue ­– and a well-maintained one – but never a major factor outside of basic monitoring.

I have written extensively about her journey over the past five weeks. Because of the complex nature of her leukemia treatment and the daily roller coaster of things that could – and have – gone awry, I’ve been updating her situation weekly via my blog here. Trust me, you wouldn’t want a daily or hourly report from here. It’s simply too volatile at times. It’s cancer. Stuff happens, the doctors manage it and you hold on tight and wait for improvement.

You can read backwards here to be fully in the loop about her path to recovery.

I also wrote extensively about the first 18 months of her miracle first cure during my 30-30 #GiveASpit tour this summer when we traveled to create awareness for leukemia and the bone marrow registry that saved her life. Here are Part 1 and Part 2.

Today, however, she is slowly coming out of four days of hell because of some scary things that happened to her blood chemistry during the middle of the week. On Thursday evening, Jenn had a brief and early-detected episode with a complication of her diabetes. It was the first time anything significantly bad has occurred because of a medical condition she has managed since 1991.

I needed to Google it on Friday afternoon to understand it because I’d never heard about it before, despite almost 13 years of living with a diabetic.

It’s called Diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) and, according to Diabetes.org, “this is a serious condition that can lead to diabetic coma (passing out for a long time) or even death.”

When your cells don’t get the glucose they need for energy, your body begins to burn fat for energy, which produces ketones. Ketones are chemicals that the body creates when it breaks down fat to use for energy. The body does this when it doesn’t have enough insulin to use glucose, the body’s normal source of energy. When ketones build up in the blood, they make it more acidic. This is a warning sign that your diabetes is out of control or that you are getting sick.

Because they’re literally checking her blood composition and counts several times a day, this was caught very early and was nipped in the bud. But it was still a massive blow to her progress this week.

On Thursday, it began with diarrhea and then full nausea and vomiting in the overnight and much of the day Friday, which led her to sleeping and waking only to vomit more, literally around the clock, for 72 hours. Of course, she was wired to heart monitors and the largest number of bags of fluids, medicines, insulin, antibiotics and drips that I’ve ever seen attached to her tree to neutralize the effects of DKA.

They’re also keeping an eye on her appendicitis, which has appeared to calm for now after a week of antibiotics.

She is now pretty washed out, frail and fatigued. And it was the second time during this second journey that she experienced several days of “delirious” …

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A #JennStrong2 update: a second chance at life next Thursday

Posted on 22 October 2015 by Nestor Aparicio

 

“Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. Today is a gift, that’s why they call it the present.”

Mike Ditka

 

 

FOR A WHILE, IT SEEMED like the sickness would never end.

The first nausea came in a brief wave last Tuesday right after her second day of the second round of chemotherapy. She was on her way to the bathroom and got one whiff of my dinner and the vomiting began and it didn’t stop for seven days. Last Thursday morning, she sent me a text that read: “I’m struggling.”

I arrived 30 minutes later and when I left after midnight on Friday, she was still living with a bucket at her feet and more waves of stomach-churning illness channeling through her into the fourth straight night.

On Saturday, with her sister by her side, she didn’t know what day it was and was quite combative and insistent about many rambling thoughts. Jenn was convinced that I wasn’t even with her on Thursday or Friday. After the Ravens loss on Sunday night, I slept on the cot in her room because she was so disoriented that I didn’t want her waking up alone in a panic without being able to calm her.

She wasn’t on her mobile phone or iPad for eight days because she really couldn’t type. She was far too loopy and weak to even paw at the keys as her frustration mounted. All throughout the weekend nights, she said dozens of nonsensical phrases, rambling words and was wildly talking in her sleep and twitching a bit with her hands – almost trying to motion by pointing like she does when she talks.

At one point on Sunday morning, she sat up in bed and looked at me, insisting with full clarity that I send her sister a text reply to tell her that she “got the message.”

Meanwhile, her sister was sitting two feet away from us, and staring at her. She was asleep again moments later. It was like something out of “The Shining” – a giant fever dream.

Her sister Jessica was planning to come to Baltimore to spell me, so I could go to San Francisco for the Ravens game. I never really came close to leaving her. She was just so, so sick.

(And that was before she watched the Ravens play in Santa Clara.)

By Sunday afternoon, the lesions caused by the chemo had settled into her esophagus and throughout her GI tract, and the pain was so severe that on Monday night the bags of morphine started coming. On Tuesday morning, they began feeding her through a tube because she needs the liquid nutrition to keep her strength for the rest of this literally bloody battle. Plus, with the sores on her tongue, in her mouth and down her throat, there is no way she can swallow anything beyond a little water. They have a dentist-style suction tube next to her bed to extract the mucus from her throat.

On Tuesday night, she started to rebound with some energy. I’m pretty sure the pain meds act as a stimulant. Her hair stylist came to shave her head bald once again because her beautiful, curly hair was ripping out of her scalp in clumps over the weekend.

On Wednesday morning, she announced that she wanted a Boston cream donut. Of course, there’s no way she could eat it. But, she did make me bring her some shepherd’s pie later that night and she made it through a few mouthfuls of mashed potatoes and gravy.

She said the mashed potatoes were “like glue in her throat.” Today she is moving on to Ensure milkshakes. This is why…

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There is no romance in leukemia treatment.

Week 2 at “The Hotel” has been a living hell for my wife.

It has been a display of courage and bravery that leaves me speechless. It takes my breath away.

Welcome to #JennStrong2.

Yes, cancer still sucks. Anyone who’s been subjected to it as a patient or a care provider understands where Jenn is in the process of her long journey to recovery and health. It’s been incredibly hard to watch and …

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HOLIDAY VIP DEAL: Buy “Purple Reign 2” for Ravens readers here

Posted on 05 December 2014 by Nestor Aparicio

Thanks for checking our section of purple cyberspace and for having interest in purchasing Purple Reign 2: Faith, Family & Football – A Baltimore Love Story via WNST.net. It’s been a labor of love for me — researching, writing and presenting the building of a NFL championship.

In 2001, I wrote Purple Reign: Diary of a Raven Maniac and I’ve had many inquiries regarding reprinting it and packaging it with the new book on the 2012 Ravens. So, below are the options to purchase both books as well as a 6-CD collection of our best WNST radio interviews with the many stars and interesting people from Super Bowl XXXV and Super Bowl XLVII. It will have original audio from 1990’s with Ray Lewis, Brian Billick, Jon Ogden as well as a two-hour life retrospective when I sat down with Arthur B. Modell in 2004. We’ll also include highlights from the past two years with Joe Flacco, Ray Rice, Torrey Smith, John Harbaugh and others. It will be nearly seven hours of conversation with Baltimore Ravens who have hoisted the Lombardi Trophy.

The book is 480 pages, chock full of stories, background, behind-the-scenes information told in 22 chapters from the firing of Brian Billick to the hiring of John Harbaugh to the drafting of Joe Flacco and Ray Rice to the 2012 season and the Super Bowl XLVII win and parade down Pratt Street and celebration inside the stadium back in February.

And the best part of the book or books? They both have happy endings. If you love the Baltimore Ravens, you’ll love the book(s).

It’s the best work of my career and I know once you read it you’ll agree. Virtually every review has been a 5-star compliment since the book was released in June 2013.

Here are two links to excerpts from Purple Reign 2:

This is an excerpt from Chapter 6 of Purple Reign 2: Faith, Family & Football – A Baltimore Love Story.

And here’s another from Chapter 10 involving Joe Flacco and Steve Bisciotti’s cash showdown in August 2012.

 

BUY PURPLE REIGN HERE:

Here’s our shopping cart for all things Purple Reign, new and old:

Purple Reign V.I.P. Box Set (HOLIDAY DISCOUNT)

Includes:

Purple Reign 2: Faith, Family & Football – A Baltimore Love Story (2013)

Purple Reign: Diary of a Raven Maniac (2001) hardback 2nd edition

WNST Purple Reign Radio Memories (6 CD’s)

RAY 2:52/BELIEVE IN JOE New Orleans poster

Full color 12X18 poster of Purple Reign 2 cover (featuring fabulous artwork of local sports cartoonist Mike Ricigliano) that is suitable for autographs/framing or your mancave wall

And if you buy this deluxe package, make sure you let me know how to personalize the new book for you below:

$59.95 plus S&H

$49.95 WITH FREE SHIPPING!!!!!

How do we sign Purple Reign 2?

 

—————————————————

Purple Reign Both Books Hardbound

Includes:

Purple Reign 2: Faith, Family & Football – A Baltimore Love Story (2013)

Purple Reign: Diary of a Raven Maniac (2001)

$49.99 plus S&H

 

—————————————————

Purple Reign 2: Faith, Family & Football – A Baltimore Love Story BOOK ONLY (hardback)

$26.95 plus S&H

 

—————————————————

Purple Reign: Diary of a Raven Maniac BOOK ONLY (hardback)

$24.95 plus S&H

 

—————————————————

Purple Reign Radio Memories — a 6 CD set of WNST purple interviews with stars & heroes of Super Bowl XXXV & Super Bowl XLVII

Nearly seven (7) hours of classic audio conversations including the life story of Arthur B. Modell in his words

$19.95 plus S&H

 

—————————————————

FOR E-BOOKS AND E-READERS

Both Purple Reign: Faith, Family & Football – A Baltimore Love Story & Purple Reign: Diary of a Raven Maniac are NOW AVAILABLE:

Click here to purchase via Smashwords for most e-formats

Click here to purchase via Amazon for Kindle

 

 

 

 REVIEWS FOR PURPLE REIGN 2:

By JL
Format:Kindle Edition|Amazon Verified Purchase
If you want to read game reviews about the 2012 Ravens, just looks online. If you want to read the story of the 2012 Ravens, if you want to relive the journey of the 2012 Ravens then read Purple Reign 2. This book cover so much history about the Ravens and is told through the eyes of Baltimore’s own award winning Journalist, Nestor Aparicio.The history of the Ravens is recapped from a fans perspective with inside information. Aparicio makes you feel as if you are in the Ravens Locker Room, draft war room and the sidelines. Ray Lewis, Joe Flacco, Ed Reed, Torrey Smith, Anquan Boldin, Art Model, Steve Biscotti, Ozzie Newsome and John Harbaugh all provide Aparicio with amazing insight and recap events of the 2012 journey in a way never imagined. A must read for all football fans.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Must have if you’re a ravens fan. August 29, 2013
Format:Kindle Edition
The interviews make it all worth it. He goes into detail how some of the players were chosen in the draft. Honestly I couldn’t put the book down. You get to have a better insight and understand the different players in the team. If you’re a ravens fan, this is one book you definitely should have.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Ravens History August 19, 2013
Format:Kindle Edition
Nestor gives you behind-the-curtains access of the Ravens run to the Super Bowl!!! Amazing insight to the players, coaches and owners. A must have for every Ravens fan!!!
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Format:Kindle Edition
Nestor Aparicio is a true fan of the Ravens and his passion is what makes this book so great.. All of the “behind the scenes” moments that he describes in detail, show all of the hard work that went into this book.. A Ravens fan can open this book at any point and be captivated.. The 2012 season was a great ride and this book puts all of the pieces together.. From process of the hiring of Coach John Harbaugh to the magical win of Super Bowl XLVII, a true page turner.

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#JennStrong receives the greatest “life and love” letter ever written from Germany

Posted on 07 August 2014 by Nestor Aparicio

Today, while on her usual visit at the hospital, my wife got a massive surprise. Jennifer Ford Aparicio (aka #JennStrong) received a letter from her donor. It came from her bone marrow transplant coordinator on three sheets of paper in 12-point type. The blanks indicate information that was literally whited out on the original documents to ensure anonymity. We do not know his name. We aren’t allowed to officially meet or exchange names for another 11 months.

This is the most poignant, amazing document I have ever seen. If you think it’s hard reading it, you should’ve seen me trying to re-type this to publish on my blog. Obviously, I might have to ask Mark Cuban or Dirk Nowitzki for a favor…

 

Dear Ms. “;”

Honestly, I don’t really know how to start such a letter. Maybe it is the best way to start by introducing myself as good as I can.

I’m a 21 year old man from Germany. I’ve got several sport activities which I very like. I really like soccer. I’ve played it for almost ten years in clubs. The first time I played soccer, I was a little boy and my father went with me to the football pitch. It was such an awesome feeling to play with other kids and have fun. I didn’t play very successfully, but if I’m honest, it wasn’t my intention to be the next soccer star. I just wanted to have fun. After some years and a few injuries, I decided to give up what I really love. Of course, it was a tough decision, but I had to take care of my health, so it was the only decision I could make.

I’m interested in basketball. The origin of basketball is your country! Of course as a German, I’m a huge  ______ fan, so it’s no wonder, that I’m also a “fan” of the _________. Are you also interested in basketball, or are you prefer another sport activity?

Now, I’ve got a few questions which I’d like to ask you. The first and for me, most important question is:

How are you feeling?

Did you overcome blood cancer, the pain and everything else which is included by this awful disease?

How did you get to know of the diagnosis “blood cancer”?

What were your first thoughts once you got the message of leukemia?

Have you ever doubted that you’ll survive?

What did you feel, when receiving the message, that there is a donor for you?

Of course, I’ll understand if you don’t want to answer some of these questions, because maybe they’re too personal.

Probably it is time to explain to you, why I did donate stem cells.

A couple of friends asked me “why do you donate for a person you don’t even know?”

The answer actually isn’t as easy as it looks like. Once I was in the hotel, previous and after this donation, I often asked myself the question. But if I’m honest, it’s complicated to describe. Sometimes it’s hard to explain with the words I know. Maybe it’s best to tell you how I anyway get into position to donate for somebody.

About two years ago, when I was in vocational school, there was a charity event organized by ____. I was asked if I wanted to sign up or registrate to the database of ______. I didn’t really think about what I was doing and potential consequences for me or other people so after a few minutes I was a potential donor.

My first thought was “Oh, you won’t get the chance to donate” but this thought should become a huge fallacy.

One Year after my registration, it was a Saturday, I came home from work and while I was having breakfast, the doorbell rang. I thought it could be the mailman, because it was the typical time in Germany for post. He gave me the usual catalogues of advertisement and one huge envelope. I was quiet fascinating and didn’t expect that this letter was for me. My mind noticed very quickly “Oh, it’s for you!” I saw the logo of _____ and something in my mind told me, that this letter could change a few things immediately.

While I was reading the first lines, I was shocked in a “special” way. Obviously, at this moment I realized that my name and information about me were remaining in the database of the ____. I really had to sit down for some minutes in my room and had to think about what just happened.

It was unreal to read that I could make a contribution to rescue the life of somebody!

The next weeks were quite a journey for me: I had to fill in a lot of papers about health issues, went to doctors, had a couple of calls from employees of the ____ and got also several letters.

One day I had to go to my family doctor, because I had to give a blood sample. This blood was sent to a scientific institute to check if I’m the right donor for you! My responsible official had already told, that could take a few weeks until I’ll get an answer.

Weeks passed, but at the end of May, I finally got a positive answer. I was snoozing until I looked up on my mobile phone and saw an incoming call. I’ve already recognized the number, because I got several calls from this number in the last weeks. It was the _____! Immediately, I was wide awake and listened carefully the woman on the phone. As she had asked me, if I would like to donate, I did not hesitate for a second. I’ll do it!

So a couple of days later I had to go to ______, because of pre-examinations to check if I’m completely healthy. The donation should start a few days after the check-up, but one day in the evening I got a call from the clinic where the donation should take place. She said the target date had to be postponed.

This was a strange feeling, because I worried a lot and asked myself what could be the reason for this delay. But after some calls on the other day, the worries didn’t exist anymore.

On the 24th of June I went to ____ again, but this time I stayed there two nights in an incredible hotel.

Next day was donation day! The breakfast in the hotel was impressive, but honestly I couldn’t eat as much as I’d like to, because I was too excited about the things which should come later that day.

At eight O’clock, it all began. Of course, I speculated a lot about how this day will look like and I also had a few doubts if I’ll get any pain or side-effects. But was so relaxed, I couldn’t believe it myself.

I lay there about three and a half hours. It sounds like nothing than boredom, however it wasn’t. I listened to music a lot and talked to one of the nurses for some time.

The feeling after donation was unbelievable! I couldn’t realize that I possibly saved a life. I had to wait about half an hour, because the doctors wanted to know if I felt good after this process. I didn’t expect that I’ll feel so good if I’m honest because when I was at the check-up they told me, you will feel like you ran a marathon. But everything was good.

In the evening I finally realized what I had done. If everything went well, I would save a life! A life of a human! The thoughts and the feelings which I have while thinking about it, are so unbelievable! After the donation, friends texted me “we are so proud of you – you’re a hero!” Of course, the support of my friends was amazing and just in the moments as I had worries about the things that will come. I felt a lot more secure.

But am I really a hero?

In my opinion I’m not a hero! Actually, I did something very special and maybe uncommon. Of course, everybody has his own definition of becoming a hero. For me a hero is a person who risks his own life to save a life of somebody whom he or she actually doesn’t even know. A soldier in Afghanistan is a hero! He or she puts his/her life on the line, just to create a little bit of freedom in a country where freedom never could exist. A fireman risks his own life to save a life or even more from people he actually doesn’t know everyday. But why do they do something like that? In my mind, those people do this out of deepest conviction. They don’t do it because they have to. No, they do it because they believe it is right to do it!

What does it mean to my situation?

I did this donation also out of deepest conviction. I didn’t do it because it’s highly regarded in society. No, I did this for you because I believe it is our assignment to help people when they need help the most.

But there is another reason why I did such a thing.

I told you previously, that I was admitted into the database of the ___ because there was an initiative at my vocational school. There was a guy of the same age and his little brother suffered leukemia, so he was looking for a donor for his young brother.

While I was listening to the story of his young brother, I asked myself what I would do for my little brother if I was in his position. I don’t know if you have children or if you are even married, but the thought that you may lose things which you truly love was beyond all bearing. By knowing that I could make at least one person much more happier pushed me a lot. A lot of people want to have so much money that they don’t know even what to do with it, they want to have a fast car, a huge mansion or even a yacht. But what you only wish is, that you can see your kids, play with them in the garden, see them growing up, just do what you want to do and not spending every second thinking about your disease. You just want to live your life! Happiness is one of the things you can’t buy!

I’d like to come to the end of this letter. I actually don’t know how to end such a letter, like I previously didn’t know how to start. But what I’d like to say: I also have to thank you! It may sound strange but I’m deeply grateful that I had such a chance to do something like that. Every time I’m upset, I think back on what I did and that you could be the happiest person on earth. And so I become very happy too. I wish you, your family and your friends all the best and that you will become the person you were before the disease, that you can do whatever you like to do, that your dreams and wishes you have become reality at some point.

Someday, I hope that I’ll get the redeeming message from you: “I’m fine!”

 

Your genetical twin!

 

 

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”How’s our girl doing?” – A #JennStrong update for August

Posted on 03 August 2014 by Nestor Aparicio

We’re coming up on Day 150 for Jennifer Aparicio and her #JennStrong leukemia journey and every day I get more questions about her prognosis, future and general health. We’re blessed to have so many folks who care so much about my wife.

On June 26th, she underwent a bone marrow transplant from an anonymous donor. We believe the donor is from Europe.

The last six weeks have been exceedingly difficult for Jenn as she completely restores her immune system, strength, DNA and overall health. It has been an honor to be her caregiver and constant companion through this gruesome yet inspiring adventure to save her life.

The side effects are literally too numerous to recount. Pain, aching, fatigue, bones growing, blood flowing, infections and more than 30 pills per day for all sorts of complications and issues related to her safety. We have spent 134 of the last 143 days in or at the hospital. So far, she’s spent 51 nights as an in-patient.

Everywhere I’ve gone the past few weeks, people ask the same question: “How is our girl doing?”

The answer: better than we could have possibly expected but still far from our eventual destination.

Her weight dipped from 118 pounds to less than 100 at several points but over the past five days she has regained her appetite as she’s been weaned off several of the drugs after Day 30 post-transplant.

The next major event will come the week of Aug. 25th when she undergoes a bone marrow biopsy that will determine whether her body has the new cells or her old, cancerous pathology.

We were told, overall, that there’s a 70% chance that she’ll have the new, safe blood. Her odds are even greater because her match was a  “perfect match” – a 10-out-10 with the same B-Positive blood type in her donor’s genetic markers.

With the Baltimore Ravens season coming, we expect that she’ll be able to attend some of the games pending her condition and the weather. Because of her skin, blood and the various antibiotics she needs for her safety, she will not be able to be in direct sunlight for the next 12 months. (So, no Ocean City or beach for us until late 2015. We’re discussing places with cloudy awful weather for vacation destinations but we already go to Cleveland once a year.) That said, there’s a dome in New Orleans and we’re hoping she can make that trip in November with so many WNST fans already signed up on our roadtrip.

Your thoughts, spirit, prayers and kind wishes have been received and are all appreciated. We intend to continue to pay it forward as we swab more donors for the bone marrow registry and spread the word and assist victims of this insidious disease that has caused our lives to come to a complete halt while we battle this cancer along with an amazing team of doctors, nurses and a supportive staff of experts at Johns Hopkins.

Please stay #JennStrong with us as we feel we’re about to enter the red zone and go for the end zone of safety for her in the coming weeks and months. She’s getting better and inches closer to a full recovery every day.

We’ll keep you posted and hope that we get a chance to personally say hello sometime in the fall, perhaps at one of our live radio shows with new wide receiver Steve Smith. We’re be swabbing for There Goes My Hero at every event.

Keep the faith and stay #BmorePositive that she’ll be cured.

Much love…from Nes and #JennStrong

P.S. Her journey is in the video below…

 

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An update on #JennStrong as she undergoes bone marrow transplant this week

Posted on 11 June 2014 by Nestor Aparicio

Today, my beautiful wife and best friend enters Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center to receive the greatest gift that any leukemia patient can be given: a bone marrow transplant and a second chance at life with a new DNA from a very generous (and anonymous) donor from somewhere out there in this wonderful world.

We’ve received so many cards, letters, emails, Facebook and Twitter mentions via #JennStrong – the sheer volume of love that has flowed in the direction of Jennifer Ford Aparicio over the past 90 days has been staggering and eye-opening – and we want to first just express our gratitude for all of the concern and offers of kindness and sweet gestures. As awful as some our experiences have been with people over the years, this time in our lives will always be remembered for the good (if not the BEST) in people, especially when some days the burden felt very heavy for us.

The love has truly been medicinal on some days when she struggled physically and emotionally. Make no mistake about it, this has been heavy lifting in so many ways.

We’ve been peppered with so many questions and concerns regarding her health and honestly don’t know where to begin with dispensing some of the more amazing – and at times “gruesome” for the queasy amongst us – information regarding blood cancer, leukemia and bone marrow transplants. I’m probably the biggest wuss on the planet when it comes to the mention or sight of blood (and Jenn is diabetic to begin with) so this whole thing has been like seeing snakes for me from the beginning.

But here’s what you really need to know and hopefully this blog answers some of the FAQs of the #JennStrong bone marrow transplant:

Jenn enters the hospital today and will undergo a week of chemotherapy in preparation for her bone marrow transplant next Tuesday, June 17. (This will be her new “birthday.”) There is no “surgery” – just a bag of stem cells and blood that gets attached to her via her port, a pair of tubes that were inserted into her back on March 21st.

Our understanding is that there are many less than desirable outcomes that could result from this procedure – there are whole handbooks on Graft vs. Host Disease and other scary complications. Our doctors have been steadfast in their belief that she’s a great candidate for this procedure and that a perfect match and new DNA and bone marrow could give her a whole new lease on life over the next six months. They were also very sobering in their discussions of all of the percentages of living vs. dying, cure vs. recurrence of cancer and various ailments that could exist or take place during the next few weeks.

But it’s also very clear that this is Jenn’s only chance to survive because even though she’s in remission and cancer free right now, her pathology indicated that her specific leukemia would certainly come roaring back before the end of football season.

Last week a dear friend and client went to breakfast with us and began the conversation by saying, “Wow, you guys have been through a lot of bad stuff!” And we said, “Sure, but let’s examine where we were three months ago and the amazing place where we are now.”

On March 20th at 8 a.m. after months of planning with Jenn and my family, I announced the release of my book on the Orioles and Peter Angelos called “The Peter Principles” and my radio comeback after nine years off the air. Nine hours later, Jenn was diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia. She began chemotherapy the next day.

On March 27th the doctors somberly entered her hospital room and told us that in terms of treatments there are three types of leukemia: good, intermediate and bad. We were told hers was

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#JennStrong UPDATE: My wife needs a bone marrow transplant

Posted on 25 April 2014 by Nestor Aparicio

It’s been 36 days since my wife, Jennifer Aparicio, was diagnosed with leukemia and as we go deeper into solving the mystery of this blood cancer and navigating how she will survive this diagnosis, we’d like to update the thousands of people who have reached our way regarding her condition and our situation. We sincerely appreciate the #JennStrong love.

On the night she was diagnosed – March 20 – we had to make a family decision regarding how public or private we were going to be with her cancer. Once we told our inner circle of friends and family, we realized that there was going to be no way to “hide” from this leukemia or my public status or her extended family, friends and loved ones. In the world of social media, we’re all very active and we think that’s healthy.

We quickly decided that we’d rather be transparent and go after this cancer the way we’ve done everything in our lives: “all in.” We couldn’t hide. We couldn’t stop rumors or misinformation if we decided to unplug or hide from the world – as many people did for many years before the explosion of the internet and social media. We didn’t want people worrying and wondering: “How’s Jenn?” So, we decided to simply be ourselves and share our information with the world.

Honestly, we were blown away by the rapid response, reach and love that so many people showered us with in the first few days after her diagnosis. Now, more than a month later, she hasn’t left her hospital room for more than a few minutes at a time to wander the halls of Johns Hopkins. She hasn’t seen a sunrise or sunset in 37 days. She hasn’t seen Kitty (except on Skype) for 38 days. She’s attached, via a tube in her chest, to a stand that she takes everywhere. She has no immune system and is susceptible to virus, illness and fever at any time so having lots of visitors isn’t smart, safe or feasible.

Cancer sucks. It really, really does.

We have posted a myriad of funny pictures, some tender moments, some Red Sox love from Boston, some gifts and upbeat videos, but please don’t let us fool you – this is the worst thing I’ve ever witnessed. It’s gruesome. Lots of blood, kidney issues, breathing difficulties, waiting, needles, procedures, tests, fevers, chills, rashes, itching, exhaustion, nausea, diarrhea, lesions and sores in her mouth and general aching all over – it’s the worst thing you can possibly imagine.

And, again, I’m not going through it. I’m just observing and agonizing almost helplessly while I do everything in my power to will my best friend to victory over this disease in the coming months.

She’s really tough. Just as I wrote last month, we believe in the cure. We believe in a happy ending. And we’ve befriended and met people who are survivors and they’re all coaching Jenn along in this journey. Over the next few weeks you’ll meet them on my radio show, “The Happy Hours” on WNST.net & AM 1570 and you’ll hear their stories of survival.

Erik Sauer, who is the founder of There Goes My Hero, beat this thing in 2008. Michele Bresnick Walsh, made famous by her incredible trip to Fenway Park where Big Papi and the Red Sox Nation gave her #JennStrong love and a #BostonStrong jersey before the Orioles game last Saturday on marathon weekend, is also a survivor (and major O’s fan) is helping coach Jenn through this fire.

They are living, breathing “heroes” in my heart and mind. They’re trying to help save my wife’s life. It doesn’t get any more powerful or profound than that. And only because someone else saved their life.

Jenn and I learned of her true diagnosis a few weeks ago and have come to grips with the fact that only a bone marrow transplant can save her life.

This is a rocky road, navigating a rare form of leukemia called

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