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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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My wife’s leukemia has returned, our #JennStrong2 cancer battle has begun

Posted on 02 October 2015 by Nestor Aparicio

Apparently, one miracle wasn’t enough for the most beautiful girl in the world. Now, my amazing wife Jennifer will try to repeat with back-to-back miracle seasons and beating cancer again with a second bone marrow transplant.

“I don’t know how to tell you this but your leukemia has returned,” is what her doctor told her while she was standing at a lunch buffet in a supermarket in Hunt Valley at 1:30 on Tuesday afternoon.

I was in the middle of a WNST radio conversation with baseball writer Bob Nightengale when she sent me a frantic text.

Clearly, we were both floored – completely shocked and devastated by the news.


That is not what we were expecting to hear on Tuesday when Jenn went to Johns Hopkins for what we thought was some routine blood work in the morning.

Yes, she had been battling some low energy over the past few weeks. She didn’t feel quite herself in Denver two weeks ago when we traveled to Mile High to see the Ravens and Broncos. She came home with a cold, some sniffles and a sore throat. She got an antibiotic and was feeling better every day – almost normal and 100% earlier this week.

Life had been so normal for us for so long ­– her initial bone marrow transplant was June 26, 2014 – that we never feared or envisioned this relapse and second battle, which we expect to be just as demanding and gruesome as the first battle.

Now that we have discovered that her leukemia has returned, we realize there have been some clues.

She had a massive cramp in her foot last Friday night at the Maritime Magic event at Living Classrooms Foundation. She started noticing a few small bruises on her body over the weekend. She’s been a Type 1 diabetic since 1991 and noticed some weird ranges in her blood sugar over the past week.

And on the final day of Blood Cancer Awareness Month, we became again aware of the silent ticking time bomb of leukemia. The cancerous cells exploded in her body again on Tuesday and, once again, will put our lives on hold for the next year.

Jenn had given blood 13 days earlier, when she first started feeling sick, and her blood was cancer free. Now, she has blasts in her blood and her platelets and key numbers are beginning to dive as the cancer begins to ravage her immune system.

She will move back into the hospital on Sunday night and her chemotherapy regiment will begin on Monday morning. We expect a lengthy hospital stay and a long battle. She spent 56 days in the hospital on the first journey – including 42 days on the first stay in March and April of last year. We were in the hospital literally every day for 180 days.

Honestly, this time, we’re just hoping to have her home by the end of the World Series or sometime around Halloween. And we’ve put our full faith in the doctors at Johns Hopkins who miraculously saved her life the first time.

My son has been on his honeymoon this week at Disney World, the Ravens played in Pittsburgh on Thursday night and we were headed for a five-day beach getaway and now, nothing else seems to matter anymore.

I wrote a massive blog about my search for happiness last month.

But, as Don Henley, sang: “In a New York minute, everything can change.”

Indeed, the wolf is always at the door.

Life is very fragile and our time on earth is very limited.

We’ve had 72 hours to digest this diagnosis and the second battle begins now.

It’s #JennStrong2.

And once again, my wife told me on Tuesday night: “I’m not going to f**king die. I will fight!”

So, off to the 5th floor we go for an extended stay and a full focus on her getting to remission and whatever it takes after that.

Her doctors are working on various protocols and developing an evolving strategy to save her life.

We know this journey well. We’ve become close friends with survivors. We’ve also lost some friends along the way. We’ve already run into folks at the hospital who were battling with her in 2014 and are still fighting for their lives every day.

And we’ve also seen many miracles.

Last Saturday night, we went to have our annual pre-game beverage with Marvin Lewis here in Baltimore before the Ravens game. We ran into this young lady with some Cincinnati roots, who is a five-year bone marrow transplant survivor.


Inspiration is all around.

Survivors abound. That’s what There Goes My Hero is all about!

But this #JennStrong2 fight will not be any

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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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