Tag Archive | "transplant"

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Playing Willy Wonka in America for a week for the German man who saved my wife’s life with bone marrow

Posted on 21 November 2016 by Nestor Aparicio

Now that it’s taken me a few days to recover from my mystery surprise vacation, it’s time to come clean on how all of the elements of the #NielsInTheUSA tour came together during his epic, whirlwind week of travel across the continent in search of Dirk Nowitzki.

The more we posted pictures from various places and with many friends, celebrities and people involved in Jenn’s fight for her life in battling leukemia, the more questions folks had about the journey.

All of it was a secret for him. It was designed that way because he told us he loves surprises. It was also his dream trip to America – the first time he’d traveled outside of Europe.

It all began with his initial letter, which we received on August 7, 2014 – just 42 days after he anonymously donated his bone marrow to Jenn from Germany that saved her life on June 26, 2014. Read the letter here: http://wnst.net/wnst/jennstrong-receives-the-greatest-life-and-love-letter-ever-written-from-germany/

WARNING: If you do not click on the above link and read the letter, you’ll miss the whole point of everything you’re about to read and you’ll never understand what you witnessed in pictures earlier in November. Please read it before you proceed…

(Yes, really!)

You’ll be glad you did…

***

German law states that donors must wait two years before they can be introduced to a survivor. We knew in August 2014 that Jenn would have to survive and thrive for the next 22 months in order to meet him.

As many of you know, Jenn’s leukemia returned last September and she needed her still-anonymous initial donor to once again give his lymphocytes to save her life on Nov. 19, 2015. This was our best shot to cure her cancer through an awful process known as “graft vs. host disease,” which she has spent much of this calendar year experiencing most of the gruesome aftershocks of her survival last winter.

On the afternoon of June 30th, we received an email from our John Hopkins transplant coordinator with the name of the angel who saved her life.

For two years we only knew that he was male, from Germany and 21 at the time of his donation of bone marrow to save a stranger’s life in America. All he knew was that it was a 41-year old woman in America he was trying to save with his blood.

His name was Niels Domogalla, now 23, and he lives in Witten, Germany. Despite having his email address, Jenn and I dove onto the internet and she found him on Facebook within 30 seconds.

She friended him. I friended him. We both began to write short letters of introduction but before we could finish them he had already friended us both back and had commented on our walls.

It was 4:30 in the afternoon in America. It was 10:30 in the evening in Germany.

And, so, a unique friendship was berthed.

And what, exactly, do you say to a person who saved your life?

 

***

 

It didn’t take us long to realize that this was a special and unique young man in Germany. First, he really was concerned about the quality and the grammar of his English. He speaks parts of four languages and his English is about 96% perfect, which is better than …

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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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JennStrong2 update: Our 2016 New Year’s Resolution is to stay out of the hospital

Posted on 31 December 2015 by Nestor Aparicio

“And we can break through

Though torn in two, We can be one…

I, I will begin again”

Paul Hewson

New Year’s Day

 

WHEN SHE CHECKED INTO THE HOTEL last Tuesday – and knowing she was going to spend a dreadful Christmas holiday in a hospital bed – I was more concerned than I’ve been at any point in this almost two-year old leukemia journey.

Jenn was frail, gaunt, blank-faced and hadn’t really eaten anything of substance in three weeks.

Many of you have asked, inquired politely or simply followed this second trip into the gruesome world of cancer for my beautiful wife, Jennifer Ford Aparicio. We are eternally grateful that you care. But sometimes it has been hard to express how we’re feeling, especially when I’ve bumped into folks in the real world who ask “How is she today?” or the more familiar John Harbaugh refrain: “How’s our girl doing?”

As I wrote when this second cancer journey began in late September, sometimes you really don’t want to know how she’s feeling.

We’re doing our best to learn about leukemia, bone marrow transplants and graft vs. host disease as we go, and give you the most accurate information as we know it so that our friends, family and loved ones understand the reality of her path. Writing about it here also gives us a chance to tell the story once – so that we don’t have to do it a thousand times as folks ask one by one. As you’ve read, it’s very complex and there’s no elevator ride timetable that can accurately portray what’s been happening to her during this battle.

She’s home now after nine more days at The Hotel, resting and recuperating. The war is not over – we know better than to be overconfident – but there’s a legitimate chance that we may have finally fought our final battle before returning her to safety and a cancer-free future in 2016.

After her leukemia returned on September 29th, we were told in early October that a series of things needed to happen:

She needed to get into the hospital for chemotherapy to clear out the cancer and then hope that her initial donor, a 21-year old man from Germany who saved her life on June 26, 2014, would agree to send more lymphocytes to save her life again. If not, she’d need to go back to the bone marrow registry for a new bone marrow transplant from another donor.

Just 22 months ago, there were only two perfect matches for Jenn on the international registry. Now, there are NINE. It makes us feel that our 30-30 #GiveASpit Tour this summer at Major League Baseball parks and many awareness and bone marrow donor drives are working all over the world.

If there’s any “message” or “gift” or “thing you can do for us” this is it: get on the bone marrow registry now!

Sure, there were setbacks in October and November. And there was plenty of illness in December. Her appendicitis has somehow calmed down. Her blood sugars, volatile for a period of time, have normalized. Her appetite, all but gone for long stretches, is now slowly returning even if her stomach has shrunk. On Tuesday night at the hospital she said, “I’m feeling kinda hungry but I’m really full.”

Yes, many things we’ve seen and heard haven’t made sense on the long, strange trip.

We don’t ask “why?”

You can’t judge it when you’re living it.

On November 19th, her German donor/angel sent another bag of blood that set off the graft vs. host disease that the doctors were looking to ignite a cure for her cancer. Earlier this week, via a painful liver biopsy, her doctors confirmed that her extreme illness over the past month was indeed GVHD. Her donor cells attacked her body – as intended – and hopefully, attacked the leukemia that was looking to kill her.

She’s on a massive amount of steroids that will probably create their own sets of issues and side effects.

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She came home on December 30th, just in time to see the ball drop and if this goes well there’s a real chance that we might never see another overnight on the 5th floor of the Weinberg Center at Johns Hopkins.

I’m obsessed with keeping her alive.

I’m focused solely on her surviving this nightmare.

Every single day, every single decision over the past 100 days has been about keeping her …

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JennStrong2 update: A Merry Christmas Miracle from The Hotel

Posted on 24 December 2015 by Nestor Aparicio

Yes, the most beautiful girl in the world is back at The Hotel – just in time for Christmas.

Sometimes you make a holiday wish and it really does comes true!

When she received a life-saving lymphocyte infusion on Nov. 19th, it was designed to do this – put her back into the hospital sometime between Day 30 and Day 60 post transfusion to experience GVHD (graft vs. host disease).

Now, we await the “natural chemotherapy” to take over and identify and attack her leukemia. The past month has been very difficult at home. She has rarely left bed over the past three weeks as this complex beast has taken over her body. As her blood counts rose and improved, her energy fell. As her bone marrow got stronger, so did the disease in attacking her.

It’s a helluva thing to witness – all of this. Jenn is very thin, very frail, and very uncomfortable. A friend asked me yesterday how she’s doing and all I’ve got for you is this: she truly hasn’t had a “good day” since August.

She spent 47 days at the hospital the first time. Then, four more after the cheesecake incident. Then, two more after the post-Thanksgiving pumpkin roll. We also did an all-nighter in the ER at Johns Hopkins (a.k.a. “hell”) on a Ravens game day morning.

Tonight, on Christmas Eve while her family gathers in New Hampshire for their traditional Polish kielbasa meal, Jenn will be spending her 112th night at Johns Hopkins in the cancer ward since March 2014.

As my mom has said: “She’s been through it…”

But it’s not over and we really don’t know where the end of this journey is leading or where the graft vs. host reaction will lead us in the coming weeks. I outlined the potential side effects here on Thanksgiving in my previous update about Jenn.

The doctors are using steroids to combat and control the GVHD. They’re also doing various things to keep her more comfortable and monitor her diabetes at the hospital. We expected a sunburn-ish rash but that hasn’t happened. Instead, it’s been high liver numbers and various cramping and all-over discomfort.

While she battles and heals, we’d love to remind you of some ways that you can help us help others in the fight.

There are two things you can do to help us during your holiday meals and visits.

Please encourage all of the healthy young people at your holiday meal to get on the bone marrow registry at deletebloodcancer.org or via www.ThereGoesMyHero.org. Tell them our story! This is how Jenn’s life was saved. We’re paying it forward by trying to get you to help us save more lives in the future.

Be a hero!

And if you’re still shopping after Christmas, please use our giveaspit.com app for your online purchases. This helps our partner at There Goes My Hero, who help local folks in the leukemia fight.

Please keep them in your thoughts as well. We lost a family friend’s daughter on Tuesday to leukemia. She was diagnosed 12 days ago and now she’s gone. It was so sudden, so incredibly sad and awful – simply beyond words.

She was 16. She was full of life. She loved sports. She was the niece of one of my incredible Dundalk High Class of 1985 classmates – a guy named Frank Vanik, who battled multiple sclerosis for three decades with such grace, dignity and “life” that it takes my breathe away.

I wanted to share this video of Michael Vick being kind to my pal Frank Vanik because it made him very happy toward the end of his journey on earth.

And we want to honor Frank’s memory – he was such an incredible pillar of strength and courage for Jenn and I and we think of him often – and his amazing, strong, beautiful family on this holiday as they’re suffering a tragedy at the hands of leukemia.

Keep them in your thoughts.

We’re sending massive holiday love to all who love us and strength to everyone who is in the fight…

Keep the faith!

Make someone happy! Eat! Drink! Love! Live!

Merry Christmas from us over at The Hotel

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A #JennStrong2 update: a second chance at life next Thursday

Posted on 22 October 2015 by Nestor Aparicio

 

“Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. Today is a gift, that’s why they call it the present.”

Mike Ditka

 

 

FOR A WHILE, IT SEEMED like the sickness would never end.

The first nausea came in a brief wave last Tuesday right after her second day of the second round of chemotherapy. She was on her way to the bathroom and got one whiff of my dinner and the vomiting began and it didn’t stop for seven days. Last Thursday morning, she sent me a text that read: “I’m struggling.”

I arrived 30 minutes later and when I left after midnight on Friday, she was still living with a bucket at her feet and more waves of stomach-churning illness channeling through her into the fourth straight night.

On Saturday, with her sister by her side, she didn’t know what day it was and was quite combative and insistent about many rambling thoughts. Jenn was convinced that I wasn’t even with her on Thursday or Friday. After the Ravens loss on Sunday night, I slept on the cot in her room because she was so disoriented that I didn’t want her waking up alone in a panic without being able to calm her.

She wasn’t on her mobile phone or iPad for eight days because she really couldn’t type. She was far too loopy and weak to even paw at the keys as her frustration mounted. All throughout the weekend nights, she said dozens of nonsensical phrases, rambling words and was wildly talking in her sleep and twitching a bit with her hands – almost trying to motion by pointing like she does when she talks.

At one point on Sunday morning, she sat up in bed and looked at me, insisting with full clarity that I send her sister a text reply to tell her that she “got the message.”

Meanwhile, her sister was sitting two feet away from us, and staring at her. She was asleep again moments later. It was like something out of “The Shining” – a giant fever dream.

Her sister Jessica was planning to come to Baltimore to spell me, so I could go to San Francisco for the Ravens game. I never really came close to leaving her. She was just so, so sick.

(And that was before she watched the Ravens play in Santa Clara.)

By Sunday afternoon, the lesions caused by the chemo had settled into her esophagus and throughout her GI tract, and the pain was so severe that on Monday night the bags of morphine started coming. On Tuesday morning, they began feeding her through a tube because she needs the liquid nutrition to keep her strength for the rest of this literally bloody battle. Plus, with the sores on her tongue, in her mouth and down her throat, there is no way she can swallow anything beyond a little water. They have a dentist-style suction tube next to her bed to extract the mucus from her throat.

On Tuesday night, she started to rebound with some energy. I’m pretty sure the pain meds act as a stimulant. Her hair stylist came to shave her head bald once again because her beautiful, curly hair was ripping out of her scalp in clumps over the weekend.

On Wednesday morning, she announced that she wanted a Boston cream donut. Of course, there’s no way she could eat it. But, she did make me bring her some shepherd’s pie later that night and she made it through a few mouthfuls of mashed potatoes and gravy.

She said the mashed potatoes were “like glue in her throat.” Today she is moving on to Ensure milkshakes. This is why…

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There is no romance in leukemia treatment.

Week 2 at “The Hotel” has been a living hell for my wife.

It has been a display of courage and bravery that leaves me speechless. It takes my breath away.

Welcome to #JennStrong2.

Yes, cancer still sucks. Anyone who’s been subjected to it as a patient or a care provider understands where Jenn is in the process of her long journey to recovery and health. It’s been incredibly hard to watch and …

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Surreal journey of cancer has returned with new prognosis for #JennStrong2

Posted on 13 October 2015 by Nestor Aparicio

 

“To me there are three things everyone should do every day. Number one is laugh. Number two is think — spend some time time in thought. Number three, you should have your emotions move you to tears. If you laugh, think and cry, that’s a heck of a day.”

– Jim Valvano

 

 

WE CALL IT THE HOTEL, but make no mistake it’s very much a hospital.

Cold. Sterile. Corporate. Every day it’s where Obamacare and big business and big pharma and the best and worst of our society meet under the banner of “healthcare.” It is its own education in the ways of the world and life in America in 2015.

Full of sick people. Full of people fighting for their lives and the good people inside the walls in various shades of blue and green scrubs and white jackets who are trying to keep them alive.

Bad food. Bad cable TV. Awful towels. Great nurses. Amazing doctors. A friendly support staff. Parking with little cards that spit out of a machine and act as an ATM. It costs $6 a throw (even after you purchase the little green books…it was $5 last year, so it’s only a 20% bump) and I park twice a day. You do the math.

Even down to the gaudy, shimmery marble lobby, it’s a lot like five-star hotel – Jenn maintains that you do get 24-hour room service, a butler and several maids to wipe down your room twice a day. Anything you want and a button to push to get it. The bed even adjusts.

I call it the factory of extreme hope and sadness.

I see the best and worst things in the world here every day.

My wife will be living here again for the next month and beyond. We’ll be here virtually every day for the next six months even after she comes home.

Rest assured, she’ll be fighting for her life every day.

This leukemia thing is hard. It’s heavy lifting. The cancer diagnosis the first time was brutal. The long journey back to safety and health came to a tab of well over a million dollars the first time and lord only knows where the end of this nightmare lies.

But you can’t even begin to think about the drugs, the hospital stays, the bills, the expense, the insurance issues (and we luckily have excellent insurance because her job at Verizon and the people there have been amazing) or the risk. The sheer volume of people, hours and science involved in saving her life a second time boggles my mind as it did the first.

There are 137 different types of blood cancer in the world. And, as smart of a guy as I think I am sometimes, I’ll never understand much about this because it honestly makes me queasy as hell.

There’s lots of sitting around and waiting and time for thinking. Lots of tubes and bags connected to Jenn. Lots of very sick people with masks everywhere you go. Lots of really freaked out family members in the lobby, often sobbing and in a state of shock the way I was the first few days last year.

And then there are those victims’ extended friends and families on the outside wondering about prognosis and medicines and cancers and answers. All of them Googling buzzwords, worrying, talking on social media and inquiring as respectfully as possible.

The question you want to ask and the only real question is: “Will she be OK?”

We will always believe that she will survive. As Tug McGraw said, “Ya gotta believe…”

And every day – all day, really – caring folks are asking me the same question:

“How is she feeling?”

That answer is pretty simple: “Probably not well as you want her to be feeling.”

She has cancer. They’re dumping various poisons and toxins (aka chemotherapy) into her bloodstream. The nurses wear rubber suits as they administer it into her bloodstream. She’s always an hour away from feeling like garbage even when she’s feeling semi-OK.

Mouth sores, bleeding, breathing issues, heartburn, nausea, diarrhea, headaches and extreme fever – there’s seemingly a pill or a bag full of medicine with fancy names for all of ‘em – and we’ll see it all just like the last time.

And those are just the physical pains. The emotional toll and time and the possibilities can all sap you of your desire to live and fight.

We won’t let that happen.

Promise!

Call us eternal optimists but we kinda refused to believe that this could happen the second time. But, our doctors did tell us last year that because she didn’t experience any graft vs. host disease (GVHD), she was statistically far more susceptible to a relapse.

So, do you want the awful rash and all of the risk and pain that comes with it or not?

Because she didn’t experience GVHD last summer, this relapse occurred and she’s got cancer in her body again. It was simply dormant over the last 15 months.

Last night, I met the couple in the next room. They look to be 40. They have three kids: 10, 8 and 6. They live in Virginia. She relapsed three days ago after five years of being clean. The husband is ashen. He’s an hour from his family, sleeping in a cot next to his wife after battling this thing when all three of their kids were toddlers. Now, they’re here again in an in a similar state of utter disbelief.

Behind every door, there’s a story here at “The Hotel.”

So many folks don’t understand what’s happening with Jenn and given the complexity, we certainly can relate. We’ve been battling this thing since March 20, 2014 and I’m still learning nuances every day.

It took her doctor 45 minutes to explain our current situation earlier this week and I’m going to try to explain as well as I can here:

Her leukemia, an extremely rare form known as acute bilineal leukemia (ABL), is back. It is the same cancer she had 18 months ago. Because the chemotherapy got her to remission (which means “no current signs of cancer”) last April, they’re using the same protocol and believe that it will work to get her clean again.

Our first goal is to get her to remission.

Instead of being prepped for a second bone marrow transplant, her doctors are using a different method to cure her this time. We are going back to her original donor in Germany – the same guy who wrote THIS LETTER in the hours after her saved her life last June. We will not ask him for bone marrow this time but instead for blood, a much simpler request and procedure.

The real need is for lymphocytes, which are white blood cells that she needs to enact this graft vs. host disease (GVHD) that would cure her.

Essentially, they need to get her very sick in order to get her better.

We are playing with fire here. You need GVHD in order to fully overcome the leukemia and have your body adjust to a new immune system. But GVHD can also be life threatening.

When it comes, she will experience a total body rash that will apparently burn like the gates of hell.

“It will be a complete rash from head to toe,” her doctor told us. “It’s not subtle.”

We felt blessed that she didn’t experience this awfulness the first time but it inevitably means that she’s back here with leukemia again and the goal of the doctors is to get her

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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.

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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.

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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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Can I see 30 MLB stadiums in 30 days next summer? Only if you #GiveASpit…

Posted on 19 December 2014 by Nestor Aparicio

Many have said it can’t be done but my plan is to do it.

In the spirit of the holidays – when dreams are made and shared – I’m announcing my intentions to spend next summer spreading the word about saving lives via the international bone marrow registry. Our WNST.net 30-30 Baseball #GiveASpit National Awareness Campaign in conjunction with the local charity There Goes My Hero, will attempt to travel to 30 Major League Baseball stadiums and see 30 games in 30 days in the hopes of swabbing as many people as divinely possible during the tour, which will conclude at the MLB All Star Game festivities in Cincinnati on July 13-14, 2015.

As you know, earlier this year on March 20, my wife Jennifer was diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia at Johns Hopkins. After a gruesome chemo battle including 56 nights in the hospital and a miraculous remission status in May, she received the greatest gift a human being can receive – a new life with a bone marrow transplant on June 26th from an anonymous 21-year old donor from Germany, who saved her life and then wrote her a three-page letter telling her why he did it. “I did this for you because I believe it is our assignment to help people when they need help the most,” he wrote in a letter Jenn received in early August.

You should stop reading this blog now and click here to read his letter.

Now that you’ve read his letter, you can better appreciate our “calling” to do this summer tour and pay his kindness forward to others.

Because I’ve lived my life in the public world of the sports media and have promoted countless charitable efforts and great causes on my local and national radio shows over the years, I want to get on the road and spread the word about the miracle of life my wife received because she had a “perfect match.” When Jenn was extremely ill in the spring, we put together our personal bucket lists of things we wanted to do when she got healthy – reasons for her to live when her diagnosis and her cancer felt the most frightening.

Jenn is now a survivor and we want to pay it forward by bringing national awareness to the power of saliva on a swab by using sports, athletes, celebrities and an old-fashioned barnstorming tour of the first love of my life – baseball and stadiums and ballgames. Seeing all 30 stadiums in 30 days is on my personal bucket list and I want to do it with a cause and put a real face on the miraculous work being done with medicine in beating cancer, leukemia and utilizing the generosity of people on the bone marrow transplant registry.

Simply put, this is what saved Jenn’s life and it’s my mission to save more lives in the coming years.

At this critical planning point of putting together the tour (which begins on June 13 in Baltimore and is highlighted below), we need all of our relationships to come together to make each city tour stop a success and the ability to swab 18-to-55 year-old, healthy folks is critical to saving lives in the future. We will work with local swabbing organizations in each city to “swab” folks for the bone marrow registry and use the hashtag and catch phrase #GiveASpit or #IGaveASpit to create conversation.

Our current plan is to get as much pre-publicity for the tour as possible and build the registry one day and one event at a time. I hope to sit with a local celebrity or athlete and “watch the game” with them in each town while we talk about sports, life, baseball and whatever folks talk about when they go to games.

I already have a few cool commitments from some old friends around the country and I’ll be announcing them as they come in for each town and game. You might want to circle Thursday, June 18 as a special date on the tour. My Philadelphia stop will include the Baltimore Orioles and WNST.net will be doing a bus trip for that game in Philly.

We’re also planning an event in the spring with Indianapolis Colts head coach Chuck Pagano here in Baltimore to honor Jenn’s donor and folks everywhere who save lives for There Goes My Hero via our many business partnerships and local cancer survivors.

We expect this 30-30 #GiveASpit to be an around the clock, live-streamed, evolving conversation to be shared in social media via our growing Facebook, Twitter, Linked In and website at WNST.net.

It will be a nonstop, moving, baseball marathon and road trip across the United States in 30 days.

We will also be creating traditional radio and video content along the way. It will be a moving travelogue with some good food, cold beer, lots of highways and people and interviews with folks and fans we meet on the road along with a litany of celebrities who’ve joined my radio show at some point over the past 23 years since I started my radio career in 1991.

I’m guessing I’ll be doing some of the best radio of my life and having the time of my life. Seeing old friends along the way is going to be the best part.

I love baseball. I love traveling around America. I love the friends I’ve made along the way. In 2006, I wrote a 19-chapter book about my love of baseball. You can find the links here.

So, this is definitely a “bucket list” trip for me.

I’ll have more details as our sponsors, angels and partners evolve. But I’ll be working on this every day for the next six months to ensure that we can swab as many people at divinely possible along the way and make the tour as effective as it can be.

Thanks for all of the support and #JennStrong love we’ve felt on our journey. It hasn’t been easy. But it’s been rewarding, redemptive and inspiring for me.

I’m doing the best radio of my career. I’m having fun. We’re having a wonderful holiday season with family and friends.

And I’m planning to do this 30-30 #GiveASpit tour this summer to honor my Pop, my wife and people everywhere who save lives and inspire me.

I’m also going to have fun doing it. And we’ll save lives. And that’ll be cool.

***

There are significant links below with videos and more information about Jenn’s battle and our mission. The 30-day MLB stadium tour is also listed.

Thanks for your friendship over the years and for your generosity and time in making this tour even better and more significant.

Here are some key links to see Jenn’s story and learn about her battle:

To see a video from beginning of her diagnosis: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b9osOYm7TxU

To see a video of Jenn’s first 100 days of battling leukemia, click here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6p0W6Je0L2Y

To see the incredible letter from her German donor, click here: http://wnst.net/wnst/jennstrong-receives-the-greatest-life-and-love-letter-ever-written-from-germany/

To see her recent speech for Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, click here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5qa97BBgkTc

You can also google #JennStrong and read all about her illness and miraculous recovery: http://wnst.net/wnst/so-my-beautiful-wife-jenn-was-diagnosed-with-leukemia-last-week/

2015 WNST.net Baseball #GiveASpit Tour Itinerary:
Sat. June 13 – Baltimore (vs. Yankees) TBA 248 miles
Sun. June 14 – Pittsburgh (vs. Phillies) 1:35 371 miles
Mon. June 15 – N.Y. Mets (vs. Blue Jays) 7:10 214 miles
Tue. June 16 – Boston (vs. Braves) 4:05 214 miles
Wed. June 17 – N.Y. Yankees (vs. Marlins) 7:05 94 miles
Thu. June 18 – Philadelphia (vs. Orioles) 1:05 139 miles
Fri. June 19 – Washington (vs. Pirates) TBA 501 miles
Sat. June 20 – Cincinnati (vs. Marlins) TBA 461 miles
Sun. June 21 – Atlanta (vs. Mets) 5:10 456 miles
Mon. June 22 – Tampa Bay (vs. Blue Jays) 7:10 277 miles
Tue. June 23 – Miami (vs. Cardinals) 7:10 1103 miles
Wed. June 24 – Texas (vs. Athletics) TBA 239 miles
Thu. June 25 – Houston (vs. Yankees) TBA 779 miles
Fri. June 26 – St. Louis (vs. Cubs) 8:15 373 miles
Sat. June 27 – Milwaukee (vs. Twins) TBA 375 miles
Sun. June 28 – Detroit (vs. White Sox) 1:05 231 miles
Mon. June 29 – Toronto (vs. Red Sox) 7:05 2,580 miles
Tue. June 30 – San Diego (vs. Mariners) TBA 96 miles
Wed. July 1 – Anaheim (vs. Yankees) TBA 355 miles
Thu. July 2 – Arizona (vs. Rockies) 7:40 1,063 miles
Fri. July 3 – Kansas City (vs. Twins) TBA 1,625 miles
Sat. July 4 – L.A. Dodgers (vs. Mets) TBA 371 miles
Sun. July 5 – Oakland (vs. Mariners) TBA 802 miles
Mon. July 6 – Seattle (vs. Tigers) 7:10 802 miles
Tue. July 7 – San Francisco (vs. Mets), TBA 1,264 miles
Wed. July 8 – Colorado (vs. Angels), TBA 1,008 miles
Thu. July 9 – Chicago White Sox (vs. Blue Jays) TBA 414 miles
Fri. July 10 – Minnesota (vs. Tigers) 7:10 414 miles
Sat. July 11 – Chicago Cubs (vs. White Sox) TBA 345 miles
Sun. July 12 – Cleveland (Athletics) TBA 249 miles
Mon. July 13 – CINCINNATI ALL-STAR HR DERBY & GAME FESTIVITIES
Tue. July 14 – CINCINNATI MLB ALL-STAR GAME

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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

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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