#daprilecares — Meet Kaylee, Our 2019 Bear Necessities Ambassador

Spend just five minutes with her, and try not to be impressed by 10-year-old Kaylee Marth. Despite her youth, Kaylee is whip-smart — as quick with a joke as she is with her genuine smile. She balances that precocious intelligence with a quiet innocence, and though she may speak softly, there is a sense of conviction behind her every word.

The daughter of Rose and Dan Marth, Kaylee is a kind and compassionate free spirit, who loves to be outdoors and experience the world around her. She is an avid cook, and devours new books and movies every chance she gets. She already serves as a reading tutor to children her own age, as part of a school program. And to top it all off, she is an accomplished jazz and lyrical dancer — her team recently finished first overall at a national competition in Las Vegas. Put it all together, and it is hard not to be in awe of all she has accomplished in just her first decade. 

And that is before you come to realize that she is also a cancer survivor.

Kaylee’s mother Rose is a cherished member of the d’aprile properties family, working as an agent in our Hinsdale office, serving the western suburbs of Chicago. But for three tense and trying years prior, all of her time and effort was put toward helping her little girl fight a disease that no child or parent should ever have to face. 

“It was a scary time — our whole world came crashing down. We had to face the idea that we could possibly lose our baby.”

On January 7, 2013, doctors informed Rose that Kaylee had Pre-B acute lymphoblastic leukemia, a form of cancer found in the blood and bone marrow. With less than 200,000 reported cases a year, it is a rare disease, but highly treatable. Those first few days were a whirlwind for the Marth family; within 48 hours of her diagnosis, Kaylee had begun chemotherapy treatment at Lurie Children’s Hospital.

The goal is to ensure that each child is in remission within 28 days of initiating treatment. Once the cancer cells are eliminated, the next stage is to increase and maintain the body’s defenses, ensuring that no relapse occurs. On March 14, 2015, Kaylee successfully ended her treatment, and is now cancer-free.

Despite already being her biggest fan, Rose couldn’t help but admire the grace that Kaylee showed in the face of such terrible circumstances. “Her personality throughout the whole ordeal was awesome. The truth is, she is the one who helped Dan and I get through, by always remaining bubbly and positive.”

Against such odds, it can be easy to forget what it’s like to be a kid. That’s when the Bear Necessities Pediatric Cancer Foundation came into the picture. After meeting with a social worker, Rose and Kaylee learned of the organization’s Bear Hug program, creating customized experiences in order to brighten the life of a child battling cancer.

“At first I was hesitant,” Rose recalls. “We had always been fortunate to have an amazing support system of family and friends around us. I thought surely there was someone else more in need than us.” But after it was explained that the focus of the program was to help kids rediscover their childhood, Rose and Kaylee were on board. Soon, the entire family was off to Universal Studios on behalf of Bear Necessities — and Kaylee was realizing her dream of visiting Harry Potter World first hand.

“The great thing about it is that you are so wrapped up in fighting the illness, that you forget that your children still need to have fun, and enjoy life,” Rose recalls. “When she first got sick, it took us so long before we would even go out to dinner. There were so many experiences that we kind of held back on. That Orlando trip was really the first time we left the house to spend time as a family — it turned what was a really dark time in our lives into smiles and laughter.”

“It’s definitely made us appreciate day-to-day life, even more than we did before” Rose states. “For us, it’s about giving back, and being thankful for her continued health, as well as many of the other kids we met along the way. Because you know, there were good stories, and some stories that weren’t so good. And once you’ve been through something like this, you just want to do all that you can to help others who know this pain.”

Today, Kaylee and her family take every opportunity to give back to those in need. It was Kaylee’s idea to turn her “End of Treatment” party into a fundraiser for kids with cancer. And in 2019, she is excited to join hands with d’aprile properties, and serve as the Bear Necessities Ambassador for our annual #daprilecares campaign. Our goal is to help BN in their mission to eliminate all forms of pediatric cancer.

If you would like to join us in the fight, please visit our our page and donate.

In the end, what advice does Rose have for other families who go through what hers went through? “You have to know that you will get through it. It may not seem like it now, it may not seem like it in a month. But you have to remain positive, for yourself and your child. If you can do that, you will somehow manage to pull through, even when you think you can’t.”


d’aprile West Town Walks the 606!

Photo Courtesy of choosechicago.com

On Friday, July 19, our West Town Chicago and Lakeview offices teamed up for our first annual Walk the 606 Event — a fundraiser to benefit the Bear Necessities Pediatric Cancer Foundation.

The 606 is a Chicago landmark — a linear park and trail network that combines art and history with event spaces and alternative transportation avenues. Over a decade in the making, the 606 was the signature project of Mayor Emanuel, and provides both residents and visitors alike with acres of breathtaking green space.

Our agents bravely endured the extreme temperatures (at one point reaching 107 on the heat index value), and raised over $1,000 for the cause, before coming together to cool off at Jack & Ginger’s pub.

We want to thank each and every team member for participating, and for raising awareness of this great Chicago foundation. d’aprile properties is committed to supporting Bear Necessities in their mission to eliminate pediatric cancer. If you would like to join us in our mission, please visit our fundraising page HERE.

 

 

 

 

 

 


#daprilecares: A Step Forward

 

For almost a month now, we have been sharing the stories of our d’aprile family with you.  Each has come straight from the heart of one of our own affected by T1D, as they detail the struggle their families face each morning they wake.  But the point of all this was not to focus on the negative, on the strife.  They have been stories of bravery, of perseverance.  Of individuals who have been dealt a terrible hand, who choose to stand by each other, united.  Rather than let T1D knock them down, they choose to stand proud, and fight back.  Over the last month, many of you have offered to stand beside them, in any way that you can.  

For that, we here at d’aprile properties are forever grateful.

But anyone who has acted as a voice for change knows that it is not a road easily traveled.  If it were, there would be no battles left to fight.  It takes time, it takes true effort.  Inevitably, there will be a moment along the way where it seems as if real change is a horizon too distant to reach.  That’s when doubt begins to creep in, and many question whether their efforts hold merit.  The hard truth is, it is that very moment when we must find ourselves, and the strength to take that next step, no matter how tired or hopeless we may feel.  Because if we don’t fight with passion in our words and honesty in our actions, can we reasonably expect anyone to listen?

 

Our own Archie Vetter, and his nephew Jaret, diagnosed 12 years ago (now 22 years old)

That is why we are proud to applaud the amazing efforts of the JDRF organization, and the Type 1 Diabetes community as a whole.  This past Wednesday, their actions helped the good guys reach a significant milestone in the war against T1D.  On September 28th, the FDA approved the Medtronic hybrid closed loop system, the first ever to automate the dosing of insulin to reduce high blood sugar levels.  Akin to an artificial pancreas system, it allows people with T1D the ability to remain closer to their target blood sugar levels more consistently.  But perhaps more importantly, it represents a tangible victory in the battle against this loathsome disease.  It represents hope – hope that type 1 diabetics are not alone in this fight, and that a cure is possible in their lifetime.  

 

Randy (diagnosed 27 years ago) & Ava (4 years ago) Mihelich, fighting together, as always

But while a significant battle has been won, the war is far from over.  This Sunday, October 2nd, d’aprile properties will join the T1D community in JDRF’s One Walk.  This is JDRF’s flagship fundraiser, the largest T1D charitable event in the world.  People of all ages, cultures, and economic backgrounds will come together to make a statement.  And most importantly, they will walk side-by-side with those who are currently living with T1D, who refuse to sit on the sidelines and watch others fight their battles for them.  Their courage turns hope into something more.

Katie Mihelich and Liz Catalano, T1D mothers, with Ryan D’aprile (founder and CEO)

The window for donating to the cause has not closed – by simply following THIS LINK, you can pledge your support to this amazing organization, and do your part to create real change.  If you don’t have the money to spare, simply join us in the walk, and show your support and admiration for the resiliency of this community.  

And if you can’t join us today, do what you can to show your support tomorrow.  The cause will continue, long after this year’s One Walk is over.  It doesn’t stop when we hit our monetary goal.  We can’t rest, simply because we reached a critical milestone.  It ends when we find a cure.  When Luca, Ava, John, and all our other brothers and sisters can finally sleep easy at night, and wake up with a smile on their faces.  Ready to live their lives to the fullest.

We are greater than our sadness.  Because we know that joy is worth fighting for, every minute of every day.  Luckily, there is not a single one of us who has to fight alone.


#daprilecares: Meet John

John Hemmesch, husband, father, and Type 1 diabetic, describes what it takes to fight disease each and every day, to actually live his life to the fullest beside his amazing family.

Type 1 Diabetes is a debilitating, oppressive, and scary disease.  There is no cure.  Each and every day, my body is slowly trying to destroy itself. 

What do I do to SURVIVE?  Well, I am glad you asked!  Below is a picture I took just this morning.  That’s a lot of stuff, right?  Trust me, I did not take the picture for added shock value.  These are the things I need on a daily basis to SURVIVE.  And no, that is not a pager – it is an insulin pump.  None of these items are a novelty items, like having an iPhone.  These are the things that I rely on each and every day to SURVIVE. 

 
You can see the test strips that I use to test my blood sugar level at least 10 times a day.  With as far as technology has come, the only truly reliable way to test your blood sugar is via a finger prick blood test.  It’s not so bad, but heck I’m an “adult”.  I can’t help but feel for the kids (and their parents!) I’ve met over the years that have to go through these same routines. 
 
 
In the picture the infusion set looks like a clear ball.  It carries the insulin from the pump to my body via a tube (sort of like an IV) that I inject into my abdomen every three days.  Usually this injection doesn’t hurt too much, if at all.  BUT, occasionally you hit those spots just right where it hurts like heck (I call those ‘zingers’).   
 
The continuous glucose monitor sensor (CGM) is in the plastic packaging.  Now, this injection hurts!  Ever single time.  I change this every 6 days by injecting the sensor into a new location on my body.  I swear I am running out of real estate, that’s my excuse for adding more as time goes on.
 
You will notice that I still use old school syringes.  It’s inevitable that I always seem to run into pump problems at the worst possible times.  So, don’t judge me the next time you might see me with a syringe hanging out of my pocket!  I typically carry them with me everywhere I go.  But how scary are those things?  There is so much planning that goes into being a Type 1 diabetic.  It takes me longer to pack my diabetes supplies for a vacation than it does to pack everything else. 
 
Fear helps me SURVIVE.  I want to be around to walk my girls down the aisle.  I want, one day, to bounce a grandchild on my knee.  The fear of long term health effects associated with Type 1 keeps me going, and makes me a better diabetic.  The fear of having a low blood sugar interfere with coaching a hockey practice, or wrestling my two boys, causes me to be more attentive to my disease and test more often. 
 
The Type 1 community helps me SURVIVE.  I have met so many great and inspiring people of all ages that share this disease with me.  We have accomplished triathlons together, shared tricks of the trade, hacked our insulin pumps together.  But, the most inspiring Type 1 diabetics of all are the kids. They haven’t even lived long enough to possibly do anything to deserve such a disease.  Yet, they keep on keeping on, as kids do.  They go through their days and lives with most people not even knowing that they are living with a lifelong disease.  They are so resilient and hopeful, they are what makes the future look bright as a diabetic, and as a human being. 
 
So many times I have been told, “Hey, at least you can SURVIVE it,” as if that is any consolation.  Type 1 is still trying to kill me each and every day.  I don’t want to go through life just to SURVIVE it.  I want to LIVE it.  I don’t want to constantly worry about this disease and what the damage it is causing to my body.  I want to LIVE my life free of Type 1.  To LIVE free of the physical and mental damage that Type 1 causes me.
 
There is only one way for me and fellow Type 1 diabetics to LIVE a life that is not centered around our disease, and that is by finding a cure.
 

#daprilecares: Meet Ava!

Katie Mihelich, Mother, d’aprile Realtor, and proud soldier in the fight against T1D, writes about her daughter Ava, whose indomitable spirit is an inspiration to everyone she meets.

Here we are four years later and I can’t believe how far we’ve come. Like Liz, I had no idea what to expect and that first year was so hard. No one ever wants to see their kids sick or hurt and all you want to do is make it better. It’s what we do. We’re Moms. We’re Dads. But this was something that we couldn’t take away. There was no cure.

Ava was diagnosed on January 22, 2013 at four years old. The previous day, she was learning how to ice skate with Daddy at the local ice rink, and enjoying a fun day off for the Martin Luther King holiday. Ava had been so excited for this day and couldn’t wait to try on the ice skates. However, something wasn’t right.

As she made her first loop, she urged daddy to take her to the bathroom and for something to drink. They stopped and took a quick break. As they continued, Ava could not make the loop without needing more to drink and having to stop in the bathroom. She was extremely thirsty and nothing would stay in her.

Ava was one of the lucky kids whose signs and symptoms were evident early and who had a father that was well aware of the symptoms. He was diagnosed at 11. Randy’s heart sank at the thought, and every ounce of him wanted to believe it wasn’t true. He knew we had to test her and find out. So we did. Less than 10% of Type 1 Diabetics have it in their family.

It was the longest five seconds of our lives as we waited for the meter to tell us her blood sugar. Only to then be crushed at the reality. Ava had Type 1 Diabetes.

We were quickly admitted to the hospital and would stay for three days to learn everything we could about Ava’s diabetes and how to manage it, both medically and emotionally.

She was so brave the first day and continued to make everyone smile. But after a rough night of continuous checks and insulin shots, she woke up on day two with the reality that this is forever. She would need to take shots and test her sugar several times a day for the rest of her life. We would have to count everything she ate, consider her activity, her stress levels, excitement, hormones, illnesses, and the time of day, to then make dosing decisions on how much insulin to give — a drug that if you gave too much of or too little of could have detrimental results. That’s a lot to take in at any age, especially for a four year old.

Together, as a family, we adjusted to our new normal and did everything we could to be involved, educated, and to stay healthy. We vowed to NOT let diabetes keep her from doing anything; she would follow her dreams.

Ava continues to bring joy to everyone she meets. She loves music, animals, and nature. She’s a state champion cheerleader, plays club soccer, and has become an advocate for Type 1 Diabetes with various speaking events and camps. She’s an amazing friend and cares for everyone she meets.  We’ve met amazing families in the Type 1 community and are incredibly grateful for the support from friends and family.

Technology and science have continued to advance every year. Ava wears an insulin pump and a continuous glucose monitoring system (CGM) that monitors her blood sugar. Four years ago, we never imagined having an app on our phone that alerts us and her school nurse of her blood sugar, and whether she’s dropping or rising too quickly.

Every night when she goes to bed, we pray that she will wake up. We check her sugar at least once in the middle of the night. When she sleeps in, I find myself double checking to make sure she’s just sleeping. It’s a scary reality for parents and patients of Type 1 Diabetes, but it’s what we do.

A lot has changed in the 20+ years since Randy’s diagnosis. I took for granted everything he went through, and continues to go through 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. There’s no time off. Every thought, every decision, and every action involves thinking about Type 1 Diabetes.

My hope is that we will find a cure for Type 1Diabetes in our lifetime. And every advancement that makes life easier for T1D is a step closer to a cure. Whether it’s the artificial pancreas, bionic pancreas, encapsulation, or an islet or pancreas transplant – they will better the lives of people living with T1D, and hopefully get us that much closer to a cure. I would encourage you to learn more about these advancements coming in the future.  Every dollar we raise that goes to research, gets us that much closer to a cure.

I am so proud of my husband and daughter. And I pray every day for the children and families living with Type 1 Diabetes. Thank you for listening and for your support in the fight to Turn Type One Into Type None. Let’s all fight together.


#daprilecares: Meet Luca

Liz Catalano – Mother, Realtor, and cherished member of the d’aprile family – talks about her son Luca, and the courage he shows daily, living with T1D.

My son Luca was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes at age 5, just 6 months ago.

The day Luca was diagnosed is a day that I will never forget. Seeing my little boy hooked up to machines in the ICU was terrifying, and the news of his diagnosis was most shocking. At the point Luca was brought to the hospital, he had very quickly lost 20% of his body weight over the previous couple days, and was in a diabetic coma. I remember my heart feeling heavy when the nurse would come into his room throughout each day to prick his finger to check his blood sugar numbers, and then administer insulin shots.  Every single time Luca would cry out, “Not this again.”  In those moments, it was painful to imagine Luca’s new life involving these finger pricks, test strips, meters, lancets, carb counting for everything he consumed, pumps, syringe needles, insulin shots…every single day.  February 15th, 2016 would be the last day he would ever go without having an injection to manage his Diabetes.

As Luca spent a week in the hospital getting better and growing more accustomed to nurses and needles, my husband and I were educated on how to take care of our little boy with Type 1 Diabetes.  We were beyond grateful to bring Luca home, and we vowed that we would do everything to keep our brave superhero alive and well.

Every day brings new and difficult challenges of living with this disease.  Diabetes management is a full-time 24/7 job that we didn’t apply for, and didn’t want – but will never quit.  It involves thinking about what, when, and how much to eat, while also factoring in exercise, medication, stress, blood sugar monitoring, and so much more – each and every single day. Even though Luca’s diabetes is constantly monitored and he’s enthusiastic about eating a healthy diet, there are many times when Luca’s blood sugar numbers are all over the map for no apparent reason – affecting his mood, behavior, and energy levels.  And when his blood sugar numbers are within range, and he’s smiling ear to ear playing with his favorite garbage truck toys?  It is the absolute best feeling to see Luca thrive despite Diabetes, and doing his favorite things.

We are so grateful for all the emotional support we have received from family & friends, including valuable information & advice from Type 1 Diabetics who have had the disease for 10+ years, and their parents. After chatting with these adults (who were diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes as children), it is interesting to hear about Diabetes then, and see all the amazing advances to the treatment of Diabetes now.  I find this gives me the MOST hope that more advances are coming for people living with Type 1 Diabetes.  Personally, it gives me so much optimism for Luca’s future with this disease – and perhaps, someday, without.

Diabetes touches so many lives and it’s time we reach out and do our part to end this disease. Help all Type 1 Diabetics, including my little Luca, turn Type One into Type None – they need a cure! I thank you so much for your love & support, and please join us for our 1st JDRF walk towards a cure!


#daprilecares: Hope Begins with You

They say that charity begins at home. But when that home is beset by an affliction like Type 1 Diabetes, your support of the cause against becomes something more than charity. Instead, it turns into a uniquely personal battle to support and protect the ones you hold most dear. If you’re lucky, your family, your friends, and your community will gather together and stand beside you, to help you fight back in any way that you can.

d’aprile properties is very much a family, and we draw strength by uniting together toward a common goal.  Our team members are professionals and real estate agents, but they are also mothers and fathers. Aunts and uncles. Sisters and brothers. And as T1D has affected our family directly, we are humbled to support a fantastic organization like JDRF, in their efforts to create a world without Type 1 Diabetes.

But in order to reach a happy ending, you need to hear the rest of the story.  With that in mind, over the next several weeks we will be introducing you to some very special members of our family; men, women, and children who fight this good fight each and every day, with a smile on their face.  They hope to inspire others to join them in support of the JDRF One Walk – a family–friendly event that gives people with T1D—and their friends, family and co–workers—the opportunity to raise money for life-changing research.

The event takes place on October 2nd.  If you’d like to take part, please visit the #d’aprile cares Team page, HERE.  And check back with us every Thursday, to meet the most courageous of our family.  

Living with T1D means there are no days off, and there is no cure. But there is hope. By donating or joining our JDRF One Walk® team today, you’ll help fund research to improve the lives of everyone challenged by T1D. With your support, JDRF will turn Type One into Type None