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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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will graves

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Will Graves on the red hot Steelers invading M&T Bank

Posted on 22 December 2015 by WNST Audio

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ed bouchette

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Ed Bouchette weighs in on all things Black and Gold

Posted on 21 December 2015 by WNST Audio

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Chris Bradford talks the Steelers late season playoff push

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Ray Fittipaldo dissects Ravens-Steelers pivotal showdown

Posted on 21 December 2015 by WNST Audio






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Will Graves gives update on Big Ben and the Steelers

Posted on 11 November 2015 by WNST Staff








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David Todd

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David Todd weighs in on all things Pittsburgh sports

Posted on 30 September 2015 by WNST Staff

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Heyward-Bey says even own family will struggle to root for him against Ravens

Posted on 28 April 2014 by WNST Audio

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Former Steelers QB Batch thinks Kubiak hire will benefit Rice

Posted on 28 January 2014 by WNST Audio

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Wake me up when Goodell and NFL get it right with “Sideline-Gate”

Posted on 02 December 2013 by Drew Forrester

Our very own Thyrl Nelson beat me to it with THIS WELL-WRITTEN PIECE at WNST.net, so I’ll bow to him as being “first in” on the topic of whether or not the NFL is overreacting on “Sideline-Gate”.

Thyrl is right.

This is a major overreaction on the part of Roger Goodell and the NFL if, in fact, it turns out they take away a draft pick from the Pittsburgh Steelers as a result of Mike Tomlin stepping on the field during last Thursday’s game.

Fine? Sure. Make it $100,000 and give the money to the Orioles so they can sign a real baseball player.

Suspension?  OK.  Probably wouldn’t be that crazy to tell Tomlin to take a seat for a game or two.

Take away a draft pick?  Absolutely not.

Hell, why not just send him to jail for six months?  That’ll teach him.

The problem in Baltimore — as I see it, personally — is that this whole fiasco involves the Steelers.  As Thyrl noted, we’re all conditioned here in Charm City to hate all things Pittsburgh, so when something like what happened on Thursday takes place and it involves the Steelers, we’re foaming at the mouth before the clock strikes midnight.

If that would have been (I’m completely blanking out here…who DOES coach the Browns?) Rob Chudzinski on Thursday night, we wouldn’t give a flying-eff about it.  And you know that’s true, so please don’t tell me “yes we would!”.

I know this: If “Sideline-Gate” would have happened in yesterday’s Buffalo-Atlanta game, no one would care.  It would be a footnote on Deadspin…and that’s about it.

This was about the game being on national TV, Thursday night, Thanksgiving, Baltimore vs. Pittsburgh, etc.

My contention since the whole thing happened hasn’t changed at all.  What Tomlin did on Thursday night didn’t affect the outcome of the game.  And, while most of us (me, for sure) believe his side-step to the right was an intentional motion to try and disrupt Jacoby Jones’ path down the sideline, I also have to admit – for sure – that we really don’t know the truth.  We can only suspect.

I’ll reiterate one more time — what Mike Tomlin did was wrong.  It obviously SHOULD have been penalized on the spot.  It should result in some sort of penalty once the league has come up with all the facts as they see them.  But, that penalty should be consistent with any other penalty that comes with an infraction that DIDN’T CHANGE THE OUTCOME OF THE GAME.

Yes, Tomlin’s move on Thursday night COULD have changed the outcome, sure.  And, so could poisoning the other team’s sports drink.  What would the penalty be, let’s say, if two equipment managers for (team X) were caught on camera or hidden mic discussing poisoning the other team’s sports drink during halftime — only to have it confirmed later on that it didn’t actually happen?

There’s a huge difference between something that COULD have changed the outcome of the game and something that actually DID change the outcome.

Oh, and please don’t talk to me about gambling and the point-spread and all of that other stuff.  The league itself is only concerned with the result of the football game.  Only us degenerate gamblers are worried about the “final score” of the game.

By the way, where’s the outrage from the league and fans on the referee crew from Thursday night?  Talk about “influencing the outcome”…what were those clowns watching as Tomlin pulled his silly stunt?  No flag?  Nothing?  Useless…all of them.

The refs SHOULD have gathered after Jacoby Jones was tackled and said to themselves, “OK, let’s make sure we handle this right. The rules allow for us to grant Baltimore a touchdown.  And we can also kick Tomlin out of the game if we feel it was that egregious.”

They then could have made a decision based on the rule book.  And, if they WOULD have granted Baltimore a TD (possibly fair) and kicked Tomlin out of the game (possibly fair), the whole thing wouldn’t be an issue of this magnitude five days later.

The NFL has done a GREAT job of making the fans forget that their referee crew COMPLETELY botched the events of Thursday night.

So, Thryl, congratulations on beating me to the punch.

You’re right, this talk about taking away a draft pick from the Steelers is insanely out-of-bounds.

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