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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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#JennStrong 2 update: Every day is a bloody Halloween at The Leukemia Hotel

Posted on 30 October 2015 by Nestor Aparicio


“The real glory is being knocked to your knees and then coming back. That’s real glory.”

-Vince Lombardi



On the fourth day of her stay at The Hotel, on this second leukemia journey of pain and reward, my wife Jenn was seated as her nurse unhooked her first bag of B Positive blood. Somehow, a pair of lonely droplets sat under her tree on the floor – beaded up, shining ruby red, like eyes staring at me.

Jenn said to me, “Hey, can you grab a napkin and clean that up?”

And as I looked down and saw it, I just couldn’t do it.

My stomach turned, my eyes glazed over and I needed a moment to close my eyes and collect myself. Nurses and doctors and medics and diabetics – a club my wife has been a member of since 1991 – all see and deal with the scarlet fluid of life all day, every day.

I must admit it was the first time that I saw Jenn administer a shot into her abdomen in February 2003 that I really fell in love with her because of the empathy I felt and the toughness she exuded in dealing with pain and self-inflicted needles and blood and courage. Honestly, I’d never met a girl with that kind of innate grit.

This weekend she’s dealing with the effects of an appendicitis that was diagnosed late Wednesday night after an evening of stomach pain. We learned earlier in the week that her donor’s schedule was delayed with the blood she’ll need to survive this leukemia diagnosis and her bone marrow transplant from June 2014.

So instead of Thursday Night Football with the Patriots and a potentially life-saving lymphocyte infusion from her 22-year old German donor, she instead waits for a variety of antibiotics to settle down her appendix, which they do not want to remove because she currently has no immune system to fight bacteria or to heal wounds.

Surgery is the last thing in the world she needs right now. The doctors believe that it will be avoided and she’s trending in a positive direction.

Cancer isn’t fair and it does kinda what it wants. Or, more fairly, it’s the chemotherapy and poisons, which are designed to kill the cancer, that create other sticky situations throughout various organs in the body.

The medical team expects signs of neutrophils sometime over the next two weeks. This would indicate her white blood cells are coming and her body is bouncing back. The appendix situation remains “moment to moment” and she’s constantly being monitored to make sure this doesn’t get more complicated. Heart monitors, blood pressure checks, lots of labs and scans are all involved at all hours of the day.

Sleep doesn’t come easy at The Hotel.

Meanwhile, during the Halloween weekend of revelry and costumes and candy, we’ve only got blood – and not the fake kind – here at The Hotel. And like vampires they’re taking plenty of blood out of her.

Earlier in the week, she started feeling better from a burned-out gastrointestinal tract from the chemo. After eight days with mucositis and incredible pain, she was finally getting back to eating oatmeal and soft foods like mashed potatoes and soups. Now, she’s being fed once again by a nutrition solution every night because they can’t afford to find out what real food might do to her stomach if her appendix gets uppity. She’s slowly getting back to clear fluids and being able to drink water again.

We’ve had throat sores and nose bleeds, fevers and incredible bruising (she has very few platelets) – plus tears and fears and plenty of pain and discomfort this week.

And plenty of B Positive blood being drawn, given and used.

A bloody Halloween, indeed…

I see lots of macho muscles from idiot sports fans on the internet and every day out in the real world someone is playing the role of “tough guy” – but ask yourself how you’d feel about pricking your fingers a dozen times a day and giving yourself shots twice day, EVERY day just to survive the day and live through the night?

As a diabetic, Jenn has been doing that every single day of her life since 1991.

We didn’t need Halloween or cancer for every day to be a bloody day at my condo. Alcohol swabs, needles, pins, gauze and droplets of blood on clothes are a …

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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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