THE BLOG
07/01/2014 11:59 am ET | Updated Aug 31, 2014

The Sunday Series (JennStrong), with Mark Brodinsky

The mission: to move and inspire you with the heroism of others. Those who show tremendous courage in the face of adversity, those who give hope to others who need it the most, those who show us all how to live a life fulfilled.

This is the Sunday Series.

The Sunday Series: #JennStrong

nestor kissing jenn

A gift. Sometimes it can come from the most unexpected place, sometimes can save a life.

Just ask Jennifer Aparicio.

On a warm June night, the gift of life slowly dripped into Jenn's own body, to create a new beginning. One-hundred days before that moment, life turned on a dime, but on this night Jenn was cashing in. The chance at not just a new life, but any life at all. A life saved, and the chance to journey onward.

It was mid-March when Jenn felt pain under her right armpit, maybe a weird reaction to a spider bite she received while she and her husband Nestor, were on a vacation in Australia. But the couple thought it might be something much more. Sometimes intuition is like a premonition, in this case it was. It was much more. But what it was, no one could be sure.

"They didn't even say leukemia in the beginning," says Jenn. "They just said your blood, all your counts are really low, we want you to go to the emergency room right now and we want you to get admitted. We want you to see a hematologist. They said grab a few things and plan to spend the night, not knowing it would be 41 nights."

aparicio masks

After a painful bone marrow biopsy, the doctors at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore diagnosed leukemia. Initial diagnosis day was the afternoon of March 20th and as fate would have it, just hours before, Nestor was announcing his return to Baltimore radio, as host of his own show. Radio is one of his greatest loves, but now the love of his life was in trouble.

The couple decided to go public with almost everything, though they held back a lot. "People think we've shared a lot. We've shared just a teaspoon of what has really happened, literally," says Nestor.

nestor and jenn in bed

And so much has happened. As soon as the diagnosis was made, intense chemotherapy began. Jenn says she never felt sorry for herself. "It's funny, in the beginning I never said, why me, I just didn't think it mattered. All that mattered was how are we going to fix it, how are we going to get through this, what's our next step?"

The Aparicio's are turning adversity into advantage.

Nestor says, "you know when they looked at her on March 20th, they weren't saying you're among the people that are positively going to beat this. They were saying we gotta figure this out and now they're saying she's going to be fine. The hardest part is beating the cancer and then having a match. That's the daily double. And I'm telling you the one thing we are going to do the rest of our lives is get people registered, (get swabbed), so that if it's your daughter, your niece, your nephew, your uncle, your neighbor, your friend... that they would have a chance to live."

It is literally finding a donor for the bone marrow transplant and getting the transplant completed that saved Jen's life. The donor is anonymous, but if not for swabbing to register bone marrow donors and find a match, miracles like Jenn's might never happen. That is why there are websites like Be The Match, to educate others and encourage others to get swabbed, get registered and save lives. As the website so eloquently states, "The cure for blood cancers like leukemia is in the hands of ordinary people."

jenn and nestor with cat

Jenn and Nestor have also teamed up with There Goes My Hero, to get the message out to the masses, to hold donor drives where others are educated and can donate time, money and themselves, by getting registered.

Fifty-thousand people are diagnosed with leukemia each year in the United States. Jenn has an extremely rare form of leukemia that has characteristics of both lymphoblastic and myelogenous leukemia.

The call to action is for people to get swabbed, which almost anyone can do, or give a donation to raise dollars to find the cure for leukemia. "You know this is a lifetime sentence for us", says Nestor. "We'll be doing this forever, keeping this scoreboard on how many lives we can save.

There's also the miracle of support. "Everybody said the same thing", says Nestor, "blank check...what can I do to help you, what can I do for you right now. I said to Jenn, the thing that's going to save your life is this swabbing, and that's it, that's the reason I was supposed to be back on the air (radio) now. I felt like by coming back on the air I could do a lot more good for causes like this and I want to live in the moment and do the most I can and the best I can do, hence the name of my show, The Happy Hours.

jenn makes a muscle

Life takes you strange places, the journey has twists and turns you can never anticipate, but when they happen it's all about how you react to them. Jenn says her biggest takeaway from all of this -- "mindset is everything. Remaining positive is what's gotten us through. I mean I have some down moments, but you know I was diabetic for 23 years and never knew my blood type until I got my transfusion and it was B-Positive. And I put that on my Facebook page and I said not only my blood type, but my mantra. Be positive. I'm thankful for where I am, I'm lucky to be where I am."

be positive

It's not just Jenn's blood type, but her fighting spirit, which is why the campaign for her is called, #BmorePositive and #JennStrong.

in limo

Now is the moment. Now is your turn. Get swabbed if you can, share hope and help save a life. Be the same person Jennifer Aparicio is demonstrating to the world...she is #JennStrong.

jenn strong

Until next time, thanks for taking the time.

Mark

You can stream the full interview with Jennifer and Nestor Aparicio from Nestor's show, The Happy Hours: http://bit.ly/1lxIb7t, http://bit.ly/1veZueh, http://bit.ly/1veZx9W

Watch Nestor's video tribute to Jenn on YouTube:

Mark Brodinsky, Author, Blogger (Huffington Post), Financial Services

The #1 Amazon Best-Seller: It Takes 2. Surviving Breast Cancer: A Spouse's Story

Connect with Mark: markbrodinsky@gmail.com