Tag Archives: Charlie Capalbo

Charlie Capalbo: An Inspiring Update

For 2 years, “06880” readers have followed the saga of Charlie Capalbo. The Fairfield Ludlowe High School senior and star hockey goalie — grandson of Westport writer Ina Chadwick and Westport native Richard Epstein; son of Staples grad Jennifer Wilde Capalbo — has battled 2 separate cancers. It’s an astonishing, inspiring story. Click here to read last month’s update.

Charlie is now strong enough to respond. He sure inherited his grandmother’s writing gene. He says:

Hi friends! Finally I am feeling well enough to post an update on my own.

Two and a half weeks ago we moved from Boston Children’s Hospital to Spaulding Rehab Hospital in Charlestown. It was hard to say goodbye to all of my nurses, doctors and other care providers, but it was exciting to move to the next step in recovery.

Many of you probably saw the video of me walking out of my transplant isolation room at BCH through the bubble parade in the hallway to transfer to Spaulding. I worked really hard with my PT and OT providers at BCH for months to be able to walk that stretch.

My room at Spaulding is unreal. It has amazing views of Boston Harbor, which makes getting up early for 3 hours of therapy sessions a little easier.

Charlie Capalbo with rehab specialists at Spaulding Hospital.

On my first day here I was asked at least 5 times what my goals are. The first time I said I just wanted to be able to walk again. But as I said it I knew I wanted more. So I said “to get back to being a normal person, like my regular life.” I want to get back on the ice. I want to go back to school. I want to do everything I used to do, and I’m determined to get there as quickly and safely as possible.

My appetite is coming back. My feeding tube was pulled last week. I enjoy eating regular food again, and my doctors are working with Spaulding to wean my painkillers and many of my other meds (there are some I’ll need to stay on for a while).

In the few weeks that I’ve been at Spaulding I’ve already switched from a walker to a quad cane, to a smaller footprint quad cane, to a single point cane, and now I can walk mostly without a cane. My PT and OT therapists provide a rigorous daily schedule of workouts for me. My parents and everyone here are blown away by how much progress I’ve made. They’ve done such a good job that we’ve agreed on a discharge date of April 16 — much sooner than expected!

When Charlie Capalbo walked for the first time, hockey sticks banged throughout the isolation unit. Check out the Boston Bruins balloon too.

When I get home I’ll be in outpatient PT so I can keep getting stronger and closer to meeting my goals. I’ll also come to Boston every Thursday (the Jimmy Fund Clinic at Dana Farber) for checkups. I’ve already been there twice since moving to Spaulding and my counts have been great – thank you Will! (Charlie’s brother Will was a match for a bone marrow transplant.)

I’ve enjoyed seeing friends and family while here at rehab. I was especially honored to have had a very special visitor. The legendary Jack Parker (and his super nice wife Jackie) came to see me! Jack is the former Boston University men’s ice hockey coach. He spent 48 years at BU as a player, assistant coach and then head coach (for 40 years), and is an incredible man.

I’ve been really lucky to see visitors while here. I’m only able to because I’m still in a hospital setting, but once I go home I’ll have to be in protective isolation for a few months. This means that nobody can come into our house except for me, Will, my mom and dad. I’m also not allowed to go to any indoor public places or other private homes. I can visit with people outdoors, so I can see friends on our patio for the summer. I’m also allowed to go to a restaurant with outdoor tables, so I’m hoping we have a lot of good weather coming for spring and summer!

Will and Charlie Capalbo, post-transplant.

I’ll be on a strict post-transplant diet for about a year, which means that I have to be really careful of what I eat or drink to avoid infection, so please don’t be offended if I can’t eat something you share with me!

Yesterday my parents left me alone (not exactly alone — there were plenty of nurses and doctors around) for the day for the first time since October. They watched Will receive an Inspiration Award at the All-State hockey banquet. I really wish I could have been there in person, but I’m so happy they honored him with the award. I’m also glad to have a video of him receiving it. I’m so proud of my brother!

Thank you to everyone who supports us. You know who you are. We couldn’t have gotten through the last six months (really the last 2 years) without you guys! I can’t wait to be back to a normal life so I can pay it forward.

And an extra shout-out to our friends and family members who are always here for us…the kind who show up for whatever we need, including taking time off from work and driving for hours in Friday rush hour traffic to another state just to attend a 6-minute send off bubble parade! — with Jennifer Wilde Capalbo and 2 others at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital.

Charlie and his mother, Jennifer Wilde Capalbo.

Anne Farkas’ Very Close Shave

For years, Anne Farkas was a warm, welcoming sight at Restoration Hardware. Her huge smile was familiar to every customer.

Her green hair — that’s new.

Anne Farkas

It all started with Brent McCreesh.

The Westporter was 3 years old. He’d spent over a year in the hospital, battling neuroblastoma cancer — only to be put in isolation at home for 6 months. He missed the nurses, staff and volunteers who played with him nonstop.

He pleaded with his parents to go back to the “fun” hospital. Then he met a few fantastic volunteer caregivers.

One was Anne. By then she was working at the Fairfield Public Library. She helping bring joy into Brent’s life.

She also became a face of St. Baldrick’s, the pediatric cancer fundraising organization that sponsors — among other things — head-shaving events. (The idea is to show solidarity with youngsters undergoing chemo treatments.)

Every year, Anne puts on an enormous bow tie and green leprechaun cap. She greets everyone at the Westport Weston Family YMCA’s St. Baldrick’s.

She’s also a prodigious fundraiser. She said when she reached $3,000, she’d add green highlights to her hair. At $5,000, she’d dye her hair green — and at $7,000, purple.

Now she’s set a new goal: $10,000. When Anne reaches that amount, she’ll shave her head at St. Baldrick’s. The event is set for next Sunday (March 24, Westport Y, 12 noon).

This year’s St. Baldrick’s is the last one for Anne and “Team Brent.” After 15 years, they’ve decided to focus on helping new groups grow. They know what they’re doing: So far, they’ve raised over $4 million.

Taking it all off for St. Baldrick’s, in 2015.

As always, this will be a great day. Head-shaving is done by volunteer stylists; there’s head painting too (and photos!), all while a DJ spins tunes.

There are inspirational speakers (hosted by sportscaster Deb Placey). Anthony Capalbo — whose son Charlie, a former Fairfield Ludlowe High School hockey player, has battled 2 cancers — will talk too.

Brent McCreesh will be there. He’s now 16 — and has been cancer-free for over 13 years.

He’ll take on comers in a challenge chess match. All funds will go to St. Baldrick’s.

See you there, mate!

(For more information on Anne Farkas and the March 24 St. Baldrick’s event — and to donate and register —click here, or email DanaMcCreesh@gmail.com) 

Who doesn’t love a bald guy?

Charlie And Will Capalbo: Goalies Try For An Amazing Save

Two years ago this month, “06880” reported a heart-breaking — yet inspiring — story.

Charlie Capalbo – Fairfield Ludlowe High School senior and star hockey goalie; grandson of Westport writer Ina Chadwick and Westport native Richard Epstein; son of Staples grad Jennifer Wilde Capalbo — was battling cancer. A tumor near his heart and lungs had spread to his lymph nodes.

Charlie’s Fairfield teammates and classmates rallied around him. So did his parents’ and grandparents’ Westport friends. A GoFundMe page raised nearly $200,000.

It took a year, but after grueling treatment Charlie’s cancer went into remission. He gained weight, felt good, and went off to Fairfield University. It was one of the greatest days of his family’s life.

Charlie Capalbo (Photo/Dave Gunn)

Charlie’s brother Will — now a senior at Ludlowe, and also a hockey goalie — says that being a cancer survivor is like playing that demanding position: “You have to always be prepared.”

But no one was prepared for the news just a month after Charlie started college. He was diagnosed with a new, aggressive form of cancer: leukemia.

Despite the devastating news, Charlie fought as strongly as he had the first time. He kept his sense of humor. He kept smiling.

He was hospitalized for 4 months. He underwent chemo, and radiation on his spine and brain. The goal was to prepare him for a bone marrow transplant.

Family members and friends all wanted to donate. Finding a match is not easy. Finally, at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, Charlie and his parents FaceTimed his brother Will with the news: He was a 90% match.

From left: Will and Charlie Capalbo, and their parents on the ice.

Will was thrilled. At last, he thought, he could do something for his brother. The boys were always close, Jenny says. But that kind of closeness is unbelievable.

“Goalies are a special breed,” Will says simply.

Indeed. For Will, being a bone marrow donor meant enduring needles in his back — and missing the end of his senior hockey season.

The procedure took place on February 4. Charlie, Will, his family and friends are all waiting now to learn whether it worked.

Meanwhile, Charlie remains upbeat. He’s been buoyed by the love of his family, the support of countless friends and strangers, and messages of encouragement from NHL stars.

He’s still fighting. This courageous goalie’s goal is to get back on the ice.

(Click here for Charlie Capalbo’s GoFundMe page. Click here for last Sunday’s NBC Sports video story on Charlie.)

Charlie Capalbo’s Biggest Battle

Charlie Capalbo is not a Westporter. He’s a senior at Fairfield Ludlowe High School.

But his ties to this town are long and deep. Everyone here knows his grandmother: writer/poet/storyteller Ina Chadwick. Her husband, Richard Epstein — Charlie’s grandfather — is a Westport native; his parents moved here in 1958.

Charlie’s mother, Jennifer Wilde Capalbo — Ina’s youngest daughter — is a Staples graduate. For many years, she worked at a Westport asset management company.

Charlie’s aunts are Nina Wilde and Becky Wilde Goldberg Jarit. Years ago — to support her former Staples boyfriend, who suffered from lymphoma — Becky began running in charity events. She completed her first New York Marathon this year, at 50.

Ina Chadwick’s daughters: Nina, Becky and Jennifer.

Charlie has led a pretty good life. This winter as a goalie, he helped the Fairfield co-op ice hockey team make history. For the first time ever, the Mustangs qualified for the FCIAC and state Division I tournaments.

But other parts of his life are not good at all.

A few years ago, his house burned down. And just a couple of weeks ago — after making 27 saves in Fairfield’s 5-2 state tournament loss to West Haven — Charlie was diagnosed with cancer.

Charlie Capalbo (Photo/Dave Gunn)

His tumor is located near his heart and lungs, and has spread to his lymph nodes. Doctors say right now, an operation is not possible.

Charlie has already had a 5-hour biopsy at Yale-New Haven. Many more procedures lie ahead. Chemo starts tomorrow.

The Fairfield community — led by his coach and teammates — have rallied around Charlie.

Charlie Capalbo’s teammates lend support, as he heads to the OR.

A GoFundMe page was created Sunday night. In just 3 days, it’s already brought in over $129,000.

And that’s without most of Westport knowing his story.

Now we do.

(Click here for Charlie Capalbo’s GoFundMe page.)