Tag Archive | "Jennifer Ford Aparicio"

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Deutschland files: Miracles, matches and our mission to save more lives on our #JennStrongGermanyHero tour

Posted on 08 September 2016 by Nestor Aparicio

This blog was written because so many of you wanted to read more or know more about our #JennStrongGermanyHero journey to Deutschland – a memorable trip to meet the young man who saved my wife’s life twice on the bone marrow registry.

We must admit, it was as “unique” of a meeting as we could’ve ever imagined.

His name is Niels Domogalla and, as we’ve now learned, he’s quite a young man. We are welcoming him to Baltimore on Nov. 12th for his 24th birthday to honor him and throw a party to celebrate his gift of life to Jenn. We spent three days with him and his family in several towns in Germany last week and we were thrilled to have beer, chat and laugh with a real “hero” in every sense of the word.

The video of Jenn meeting Niels somehow got viral over the weekend and more than 200,000 people have seen it since last Friday morning when I posted it from the DKMS headquarters in Cologne.

I can’t watch it and not cry but I still watched it every night in Europe and saw all of your comments. I sat in that hospital for 153 nights and watched her battle death with every ounce of energy so that she could “thank” him. When she was diagnosed the second time last September, she thought she had let him down.

We had communicated with him via Facebook messenger literally a few thousand times since June 30th when we found him. So, part of the “awkward” simply didn’t exist. That said, both were insistent over the eight weeks we conversed with him that they would avoid Skype or a phone chat. Clearly, he’s seen all of the videos and pictures and stories of our journey. He’s seen all of our work swabbing, the MLB 30-30 Tour and all of the anguish of her fight for her life. Over the eight weeks, he was very inquisitive about our story and much of it is public record – so we haven’t had to tell him most of the gruesome parts. He can see it.

About 72 hours before we got on the plane for Deutschland I realized that the German national soccer team was hosting Finland in a town to the west, near the Dutch border in Moechengladbach. The game was a friendly and tickets were readily available for $45. But it turned out to be the final match for German legend Bastille Schweinsteiger and it was only an hour drive.

(I’m not a speed junky but there is something very appealing about driving 95 miles per hour and I busted me some 165 kpm on the autobahn rolling toward Dusseldorf on Wednesday night at sunset.)

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The game was awesome. He loved it. And, if you read his letter, you know he loves the NBA and the NFL. We spent two hours on the square of Dom Cathedral in Cologne talking about 4-3 defenses and the use of nickel and dime packages. I used 11 beer coasters to show him various sub packages and offensive and defensive strategies used in the NFL. We also drank a lot of

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Great news on saving lives and “An Evening of Heroes: Champions and Survivors” is set for May 19th

Posted on 04 March 2016 by Nestor Aparicio

Great news on saving lives and “An Evening of Heroes: Champions and Survivors” is set for May 19th

I got an email on Thursday afternoon from our friends and partners at There Goes My Hero with an update on our work from last year’s 30-30 MLB #GiveASpit Tour and our other Baltimore area swabbing events. I’d like to share it with you:

 

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It’s very gratifying to see the fruits of our labor and the real, life-saving “scoreboard” that’s starting to mount with There Goes My Hero in just the first full year of our efforts to pay forward the incredible generosity of my wife’s 22-year old donor from Germany. We’re still a few months away from being able to meet the man who has saved Jenn’s life twice since June 2014, but we’re already generating the warmth and pride that comes with doing our part to help others in the future.

Last year, we honored Chuck Pagano, Dick Cass and Brenda Frese for their stories and the bravery of their families through the journey of saving lives on the Thursday before the Preakness. When the event was over, my friends and family and sponsors all asked if we were planning on making it an annual event. I always dream big but – honestly, how do you top that head table of heroes?

Pagano survived leukemia and has now coached my wife through two battles with the same disease.

Cass saved a college friend’s life with a kidney a decade ago.

And many are familiar with Frese’s son, Tyler, who battled leukemia for much of his childhood and is now a healthy, happy little boy running around chasing the Lady Terps on another March journey.

But I have since learned that inspiration is all around us. We just need to look for it!

When Jenn survived her first cancer battle, Ravens Director of Player Engagement Harry Swayne grabbed me in the hallway in Owings Mills. “Did you know James Trapp had the same battle as your wife,” he told me. Sure, enough, the Ravens special teams captain in Super Bowl XXXV was diagnosed with leukemia in 2010 and had his life saved by a bone marrow transplant from his sister, who was a perfect match.

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Trapp is now the Assistant Director of Player Engagement for the Buffalo Bills and his head coach that day in Tampa is my WNST business partner Brian Billick, who bought part of our company to benefit the Living Classrooms Foundation. I knew we had the foundation of something special if I engaged some of his teammates from that 2001 Super Bowl win.

Back in August, I saw John Harbaugh and Billick together on the field in Owings Mills as the old championship coach was addressing the newer championship coach’s team and I saw them embrace. I’m pretty sure the two have never been publicly seen in the same place at the same time. And they certainly have never been engaged in that kind of setting and forum to compare and contrast their mutually loved Baltimore championships.

Three weeks later, Jenn and I saw this on HBO’s Real Sports:

I reached to Ma’ake in January, once my wife was getting better after spending most of three months in Johns Hopkins fighting leukemia again, and he and his brother are excited to be joining us on May 19th the Baltimore Harbor Hotel to raise awareness for There Goes My Hero.

By the way, Ma’ake said that Dick Cass was one of the first people to call him to give him some comfort that he’d be OK after the procdure to save Chris’ life.

Then, there was the call to Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin, whom I’ve strangely befriended along life’s twisted highway. I wrote about it when I did a mini-series on our 30-30 MLB #GiveASpit Tour last summer. You can read my whole “back story” with Tomlin here.

Tomlin text me back immediately: “I’m two feet in…”

He then mentioned something about needing security. LOL!

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So, on Thursday, May 19th we’ll all gather – fierce foes on the football field and the stands but united for an evening of civility to discuss the journey and paths of these six men: coaches, heroes and survivors. Obviously, the Pittsburgh vs. Baltimore rivalry will set a backdrop. But remember: there’s a story of a Raven saving a Steeler on stage with us, a brother giving a kidney to save a brother’s life. And a sister who saved a brother. And the audience will be peppered with people like my wife, who’ve had their lives saved by complete strangers.

That’s what this is all about!

I hope you join us and bring along some friends for “An Evening of Heroes: Survivors and Champions.

We hope to make this an annual event to benefit There Goes My Hero every third Thursday of May.

Tickets are on sale now. We have discounted single tickets through THIS MONDAY ONLY!!! Regular price will be $150 each but it’s just $125 for the early birds who want to commit to joining us.

If you are a business owner, I’m sweetening the pot with a free month of gold-level advertising on WNST.net & AM 1570 for all local shops who buy tables.

And if you have any questions or need me: nasty@wnst.net always finds me via email. Save the date and help us save more lives via our friends at There Goes My Hero.

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A Valentine’s Day gift for us: #JennStrong is in remission

Posted on 15 February 2016 by Nestor Aparicio

“I DON’T KNOW IF I’M GOING to make it,” she told me late one night.

It was the week before Christmas. I had been out at various events with our WNST sponsors and listeners for the holidays doing canned food and coat drives. She had been in and out of the hospital for several weeks after the initial 48 days during October and November. When friends and concerned listeners were asking, “How is Jenn doing?” I’m not sure that many really wanted to hear the truth amidst pretty lights, shopping, Santa and family traditions.

Eight weeks later, I can tell you that it wasn’t going well amidst the yuletide cheer and egg nog. From my view, it was awful. I can honestly say that I thought she was going to die. She was getting worse every day, literally disintegrating in front of me. But all I could say to her was: “Don’t talk like that! You’re going to make it. You’re going to get better!”

My wife has now been battling this insidious, rare leukemia through two wretched trips and 23 months.

Seven weeks ago she thought she was going to die. And, somehow, through some kinda miracle and a lot of prednisone and good fortune and amazing doctors and a donor who has saved her life twice, she’s now walking the earth cancer free, healthy and in remission.

We are blessed with good fortune even though this has been the bumpiest of any ride I could’ve possibly imagined two years ago when our lives were normal and joyful.

On December 22, her doctor admitted her back into “The Hotel” at Johns Hopkins after several weeks of agony and awfulness. She hadn’t eaten much of anything since before Thanksgiving. We were led to believe the most common form of graft vs. host disease would come via a skin rash. Instead, hers attacked her liver and caused her the worst malaise I’ve ever seen a person go through.

She was weak, de-energized, uncomfortable and getting worse by the day. On December 23rd she had an uncomfortable second day in the hospital and a terrible evening. And, suddenly, on the morning of December 24th she began to eat. First, it was some oatmeal. Then, she sent me out for a pizza after noon. Then, there was fried chicken and biscuits on Christmas Eve – mainly because that was the only food we could find.

At some point, I’m going to write a massive missive about what a disgrace “hospital food” is because me bitching inside the facility didn’t do much to move the needle.

It wasn’t easy spending Christmas Day together in a hospital room but at least we were together and it was the first day that she really turned the corner on survival. On December 30th she came home – for good, we hope – and has been eating egg sandwiches and walking on the treadmill almost every morning for six weeks.

Twenty three months ago – on March 20, 2014 – a team of doctors walked into her hospital room and told us that she had leukemia. Now in February 2016, she has spent 132 days in the hospital with two very separate and distinct battles with the same gruesome blood cancer.

Our now 22-year old angel donor is out there somewhere near Cologne, Germany. We expect that we’ll be able to find him on or around June 26th, which is the two-year anniversary of the first time he saved her life with a bone marrow transplant. He saved it again with a donor lymphocyte infusion on Nov. 19th.

I could write pages about what I’ve seen and what I believe and I already have if you’ve been reading. Many of you have followed our #JennStrong and #JennStrong2 journey and have inquired recently as you’ve seen her dramatic progress.

Last week, many sports friends in media and the football world all passed by my table by the dozens on Radio Row at Super Bowl 50 in San Francisco with the same question:

“How’s Jenn?”

To be honest, I haven’t written an update over the past few weeks because I didn’t want to jinx or misrepresent the incredible progress she’s made since the beginning of the calendar year. What do you write when you witness such a miraculous turnaround from what felt and looked like gloom as recently as Christmas Eve?

Jenn’s blood is as strong as the healthiest among us. As a matter of fact, she has more red blood cells than most of us. Her liver numbers are now in the normal range. Her immune system appears to be functioning very normally. She’s on a handful of drugs but nothing compared to the 30 to 50 pills she was taking in any given day two months ago.

So, where do we go and what’s next?

Because she’s still on some immune-suppressing drugs to continue to manage and combat her GVHD, she’s laying low and staying away from most human contact just because of germs and the flu season. There’s no need to take on extra risk in freezing temperatures but the doctors want her to integrate back into “the new normal.”

She hopes to go back to work slowly sometime in the late spring. Her employer, Verizon, and her insurance company have been incredibly kind, patient and thoughtful during this second journey that took her to the brink.

Her hair is coming back more slowly than she’d like but she’ll be back to the pixie Mia Farrow circa-1968 look in a few weeks. She’s eating, sleeping, walking, talking, cooking, baking and watching a lot of junk food television as she gains strength and weight. More than anything, she missed our cat Kitty so much during her months trapped at the hospital. So, she’s getting reacquainted with our feline as well.

It’s weird. There is no “finish line” with cancer. There’s only daily gratitude and one more day.

Could it come back? Sure…of course it could. The doctors don’t seem to believe this is very likely on a statistical basis.

She is now a two-time cancer survivor and leukemia warrior.

She is the real beast mode.

I suppose my ongoing life lesson in all of this is to live life to its fullest. Why do I go to see Bruce Springsteen so often? Because I saw Glenn Frey die last month and you just never know…

For those of you who want to support us, we’re planning a massive event on Thursday, May 19th to celebrate her recovery and survival and to honor several members of the Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers. The event will benefit There Goes My Hero, a local survivor-based group of leukemia heroes who twice have come to my wife’s bedside with aide, support and wisdom to overcome this life-threatening disease.

Hold the date!!!

I’ll have more details later in the week but if you want to spend a wonderful evening with some great friends and get some Super sports inspiration, this will be an amazing way to kick off Preakness weekend.

At that point, you can even hug #JennStrong!

We’re very confident she’s going to be alive and well on May 19th. That’s far more than we believed or could’ve hoped for on December 19th.

As another Valentine’s Day has come and gone, we just want to remind you to appreciate your lives, your love, your time and your place on the planet.

We’ve been to hell – but we’re coming back – and a lot quicker than we could’ve imagined.

Jennifer Ford Aparicio is coming back to life.

We’re very grateful for your support and we hope to say hello to all of you who have cared enough to follow our journey this spring.

Thanks for the support. Keep the faith!

Love from Nes and Jenn at the Inner Harbor

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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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