Needless to say it's been a whirlwind week in my life and if you've reached this blog you know that my wife, Jennifer, has been diagnosed with leukemia and is at Johns Hopkins Hospital giving cancer one helluva fight over the next month and beyond.
To say that we've been overwhelmed by the kindness, generosity and sheer humanity of all of the love bestowed upon us over the last three days would be a complete understatement. It was completely unexpected and we'll never forget this crazy period in our lives.
You have inspired us and made us stronger and even more committed through your caring, thoughtful words and the offers we’ve received from every corner of our lives. The acts, words and gestures have left us feeling truly humbled.
A month ago we were in Brisbane, Australia, seeing Bruce Springsteen, and my wife woke up the next morning with an insect bite (we think it was a spider) on her right hand. Two days later it swelled and started to throb. By the time we got to Fiji for our final two days on the beach, she had her hand exclusively in a bucket of ice.
We flew for nearly 36 hours to get home and between the flight, jet lag and general fatigue, she began to feel bad a few days later. On March 12, she went to she her doctor with some deep pain under her right armpit. We were worried about breast cancer and all sorts of bad things.
The docs said it was a swollen lymph node and gave her an antibiotic to fight the infection. The next day she went through a battery of tests -- mammogram, X-rays and blood work to make sure it wasn't more serious. On the afternoon of Wednesday, March 19 she reported back to the doctors who had long faces of concern when we arrived. They handed us a box of face masks and told us to go to the emergency room at Johns Hopkins right away because her white blood cell count was dangerously low. After five hours in the ER, she was admitted and spent the most of the overnight giving blood and getting tested.
At 8 a.m. the next morning, while filling in for Drew Forrester on fumes of sleep, I announced that was coming back onto the radio every day from 3 til 6 p.m. at WNST.net & AM 1570 with a new radio show called "The Happy Hours." I also released Chapter 1 of The Peter Principles, a book I've been working on for almost five months.
The "comeback," set for April 1, was something we've been planning together for nearly six months.
Nine hours later, at 5 p.m. on Thursday, March 20, a doctor entered her hospital room at Hopkins and dropped the biggest bombshell of our lives: "I'm really sorry to tell you that you've got leukemia and you're not going to be leaving the hospital for a long time."
Family, work, friends, goals and dreams -- all of it would have to be addressed and put on hold or readjusted to a "new normal" for us. It broke her heart to know that she couldn't be with our beloved cat, Kitty, for a month. (We've begun since begun Skyping her into chat with our furry companion every morning and night.)
The doctors have told us that if she didn't get the spider bite, which was what sent her to the clinic to begin with, we might've been sitting on a time bomb with her deteriorated immune system. Had she contracted a common cold, it might’ve killed her because her body would've been weakened.
Instead, she checked into the hospital very vulnerable but also very healthy and strong, which they see as a great way for her to start her chemotherapy and aids her chances for recovery during this first month of trying to beat this cancer. Most people wind up being diagnosed with leukemia only after they're extremely sick and weak and frail.
They’ve told us she'll be here in the hospital for at least 30 days and she won't be able to work or function in crowds or near germs and bacteria for 90 more days (in a best case scenario). The docs told Indianapolis Colts head coach Chuck Pagano the same thing 18 months ago and he spent 26 days in the hospital and got back to work in about 100 days. Pagano has been an incredible "angel" for us. He was literally the first call we made and he spent 30 minutes running us through what to expect and preparing us for many scenarios. He has reached to us every day since her diagnosis with incredible words of encouragement, love and support.
We've learned that there a lot of good people in the world and certainly in the sports world. Steve Bisciotti, Ted Leonsis, John Harbaugh, Marvin Lewis, Jim Schwartz, Brian Billick plus a myriad of athletes, sponsors, listeners, friends -- all of the people who’ve truly gotten to know my wife over the years because of what I do for a living -- everyone has just been so supportive.
With Jenn's mother, father and sister all coming to Baltimore from New Hampshire and Florida over the coming weeks to assist with her care, I'll be returning to the airwaves next Tuesday, April 1 and we plan to try to live life as normally as we can during this trying time. (If you want to help Jenn’s visiting family, please follow this link to Uber.com & enter the promo code: 1ale6. You get $20 in free taxi rides and our family gets $20 and it’s FREE to do it. And Uber is pretty awesome! BTW: We don’t get the family credit until you actually USE Uber and USE your $20.)
During her treatments, it's my goal to laugh with her, honor her and share this experience together while making it as good and as comfortable as it can possibly be for her over the coming weeks and months as she tries to achieve remission and a cure from this insidious disease.
Sadly, even in the best-case scenario, her life will be very restricted over the next four months and perhaps beyond. No Preakness. No Bruce Springsteen in Hershey. No beach time. No Orioles games. And this is after chemo kicks her ass for the next month and we hope that the doctors at Johns Hopkins -- who are universally believed to be the best in the world at beating leukemia – get the right cocktail the first time and that Jenn’s body will be able to handle it.
The good news? They tell us she's got a better than 90 percent chance to beat leukemia and live a long, healthy life once we get through this long phase.
Obviously, to say this has been an emotional firestorm wouldn't do justice to the range and depth of emotions we’ve both experienced over the last week.
I love my wife with all my heart and I don’t care who knows it.
It's kinda been that way since the night we met in Manchester, N.H., on February 8, 2003. It was truly love at first sight. Ask anyone who knows us -- we really dig each other and always have. We’ve traveled the world together, shared our love of music, sports and each other relatively openly in social media in recent years because we think it's normal and natural to be madly in love. And to be "best friends."
In the new era of social media, you share your joy with your friends. And, clearly, so many people consider us "friends" and that's a gift to us.
One of my favorite broadcasters, Dick Schapp once said he "collected people." On my best days, I've hoped to emulate that state of mind and suddenly all of the people that I've collected have simultaneously rallied to the support of my wife and I during our darkest hours and the most trying time in our lives.
Many times we share the joys in life -- holidays, Super Bowl, parties, sports, concerts, parades, dinner with friends, beach time in Fiji or Tahiti or Ocean City -- but inevitably life brings challenges none of us can predict.
Sadly, this time we’ll be sharing some sorrow and my wife will experience a lot of pain but we are holding a strong faith that there will be some massive celebrations at the end of this journey.
If you care to drop my wife a note or a gift of some kind, we're asking that they be sent to:
1550 Hart Road
Towson, MD 2186
(PLEASE do NOT send flowers!!! She can’t have them in her wing!) ;)
And, yes, I'll be back on the radio at 3 p.m. next Tuesday and every day after that when I can do a show when my wife isn't too ill to leave her side. I’ve promised her that she will never, ever walk alone in this journey. I love her too much for that.
As for financial donations or gifts of that kind, we’re focused on getting Jenn healthy first – and then we’ll be putting together a slew of ideas, events and fundraisers to bring awareness to what we’ve gone through and to make it an easier path for those unfortunate souls in the future.
We don’t know where the end of the road is but firmly believe it will have a happy ending where we…well, you know…live happily ever after.
But for now, we’ll fight. My wife is as tough as a $2 steak!
Jennifer Ford Aparicio is the strongest, most courageous woman I’ve ever known. The day after I met her in 2003 she sent me to a restaurant to get some food and demanded it immediately. She told me to hurry. When I got back, she had a needle in her stomach and a kit on the bed. Turns out she was a Type 1 Diabetic and she thought that many men shied away from her because of that responsibility and she didn’t want to tell me. She was almost embarrassed by it.
The minute I laid eyes on her, I said: “That’s the toughest woman I’ve ever seen.”
Not to mention that’s she’s also the most beautiful girl in the world – an amazing, tough, wonderful spirit who is truly my soul mate.
She takes two needles a day and pricks her fingers several more times a day. We always have orange juice or glucose tablets a few feet away. She's lived this way since she was 19 -- ask any diabetic in your life what it's all about ... trust me, there are more than a few on your Facebook page or at your office.
The good news? Her diabetes doesn't appear to be a significant complication with her leukemia and can be relatively easily managed.
She's one tough cookie, my wife. She's all mind, muscle and determination and finishes things she starts. That’s why I married her.
When she got her first blood transfusion on Friday, she looked at the bag and realized her blood type was: B Positive. She took a picture and posted it.
And shouldn’t we always be positive?
She'll beat this cancer. She’ll slay this leukemia.
It's only a matter of time.
And remember: always #BMorePositive ;)
Nestor & Jenn