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

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

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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

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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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WNST & Sport Clips team up for #JennStrong to beat leukemia

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WNST & Sport Clips team up for #JennStrong to beat leukemia

Posted on 04 April 2014 by Nestor Aparicio

Thanks to the many folks who’ve reached to us to support my wife, Jennifer Aparicio, in her battle with leukemia. Over the past two weeks we’ve known her hair was going to fall out from the chemotherapy and I shaved most of my hair on the first morning after her diagnosis two weeks ago.

I’ve received many notes, texts and seen social media statuses regarding other folks wanting to join me in my solidarity with my wife, who had her hair shaved off last night at Johns Hopkins. She looks great and is battling the normal side effects of her cancer treatment but we remain #JennStrong & #BmorePositive for a cure and a happy ending.

In the meantime, we’re trying to raise money for a great group of folks at a local organization for leukemia victims, called www.theregoesmyhero.org. My new friend (and angel) Erik Sauer is a leukemia survivor from Bel Air who founded the group after receiving a life-saving bone marrow transplant from a 19-year old girl in Germany in 2008. It will become our mission over the next few months to help him fund his foundation but more importantly to get many folks to become bone marrow donors as we get some WNST events together later in April and into early May. We’ll have a lot more details coming over the next two weeks about ways you can help.

In the meantime, for those who want to shave their heads in support of #JennStrong, we’re offering you this great chance to stop by any of the 18 participating Sport Clips in the Baltimore  area and tell them you want your head shaved for leukemia. (They will either use a No. 1 or No. 2 cutter…they do NOT use razor because of safety issues!)

We’re requesting a $10 minimum donation to the organization and we’d love if you tagged your new “cue ball” hairstyle on Facebook, Twitter and beyond with #JennStrong and #BmorePositive. The money goes to There Goes My Hero for funding and bone marrow transplant love.

This offer begins on Saturday, April 5th and extends through next Friday, April 11th.

I’ll be having my head shaved on Monday at 6:30 p.m. at the Fullerton location (7964 Bel Air Road) just outside the beltway. You’re welcome to join me or go to any Sport Clips location near you at your convenience and simply share the picture on social media. We will retweet and share all photos in solidarity for #JennStrong and all leukemia patients and their families.

Thanks for all of the support and love for our mission to find a cure for Jenn.

The last 15 days have been a hard, humbling yet immensely rewarding period for us. Your love, words and offers keep our energy and spirits high.

And here’s more on There Goes My Hero:

 

Appreciate you…

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So, my beautiful wife Jenn was diagnosed with leukemia last week…

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So, my beautiful wife Jenn was diagnosed with leukemia last week…

Posted on 24 March 2014 by Nestor Aparicio

Needless to say it’s been a whirlwind week in my life and if you’ve reached this blog you know that my wife Jennifer has been diagnosed with leukemia and is at Johns Hopkins Hospital giving cancer one helluva fight over the next month and beyond.

To say that we’ve been overwhelmed by the kindness, generosity and sheer humanity of all of the love bestowed upon us over the last three days would be a complete understatement. It was completely unexpected and we’ll never forget this crazy period in our lives.

You have inspired us and made us stronger and even more committed through your caring, thoughtful words and the offers we’ve received from every corner of our lives. The acts, words and gestures have left us feeling truly humbled.

A month ago we were in Brisbane, Australia seeing Bruce Springsteen and my wife woke up the next morning with an insect bite (we think it was a spider) on her right hand. Two days later it swelled and started to throb. By the time we got to Fiji for our final two days on the beach, she had her hand exclusively in a bucket of ice.

We flew for nearly 36 hours to get home and between the flight, jet lag and general fatigue, she began to feel bad a few days later. On March 12, she went to she her doctor with some deep pain under her right armpit. We were worried about breast cancer and all sorts of bad things.

The docs said it was a swollen lymph node and gave her an antibiotic to fight the infection. The next day she went through a battery of tests – mammogram, X rays and blood work to make sure it wasn’t more serious. On the afternoon of Wednesday, March 19 she reported back to the doctors who had long faces of concern when we arrived. They handed us a box of face masks and told us to go to the emergency room at Johns Hopkins right away because her white blood cell count was dangerously low. After five hours in the ER, she was admitted and spent the most of the overnight giving blood and getting tested.

At 8 a.m. the next morning, while filling in for Drew Forrester on fumes of sleep, I announced that was coming back onto the radio every day from 3 til 6 p.m. at WNST.net & AM 1570 with a new radio show called “The Happy Hours.” I also released Chapter 1 of The Peter Principles, a book I’ve been working on for almost five months.

The “comeback,” set for April 1st, was something we’ve been planning together for nearly six months.

Nine hours later, at 5 p.m. on Thursday, March 20, a doctor entered her hospital room at Hopkins and dropped the biggest bombshell of our lives: “I’m really sorry to tell you that you’ve got leukemia and you’re not going to be leaving the hospital for a long time.”

Family, work, friends, goals and dreams – all of it would have to be addressed and put on hold or readjusted to a “new normal” for us. It broke her heart to know that she couldn’t be with our beloved cat, Kitty, for a month. (We’ve since begun Skyping her into chat with our furry companion every morning and night.)

The doctors have told us that if she didn’t get the spider bite, which was what sent her to the clinic to begin with, we might’ve been sitting on a time bomb with her deteriorated immune system. Had she contracted a common cold, it might’ve killed her because her body would’ve been weakened.

Instead, she checked into the hospital very vulnerable but also very healthy and strong, which they see as a great way for her to start her chemotherapy and aids her chances for recovery during this first

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