Jeff Repsher with his wife and kids
Jeff Repsher is a HEADstrong Fighter battling leukemia. Click here to help support him in his fight.
The signs were there, but to Jeff Repsher, they were nothing but an indicator that he’d fallen out of shape after a few weeks away from the softball diamond.
Softball is Repsher’s passion and it’s where he feels at home. It wasn’t unusual for the Easton (Pa.) native to find himself playing three or four times a week, and last year, he suited up a whopping 155 times.
Last fall, he was playing in a game after sitting out a few weeks because of scheduling conflicts. When a ball was drilled into the gap, he sprinted to track it down, and once the play was over, he found himself more winded than usual. That, he told himself, was the result of his time off. He’d be back to himself in no time.
Despite his initial reaction, Repsher started getting pounding headaches and felt worn out, initially thinking that he might have high blood pressure. He immediately set up a doctor’s appointment, where he had blood work drawn and returned home to host a Halloween party.
“When I got to the party, I knew something was off,” Repsher said. “I was playing spooky music on my phone through a Bluetooth system and I got a call from a number that I didn’t recognize. That same number called me back three or four minutes later, and it was the doctor. He told me that my hemoglobin was 5.3, and he told me that 14 or 15 was normal and I needed to go the hospital right away.”
“That was the last time I was home from Halloween until Christmas weekend,” Repsher added.
Repsher, a 43-year-old married to his wife, Tara, for 16 years, and father of 8-year-old Rylie and 4-year-old Reid, a man who considered himself to be very healthy by always staying extremely active and eating well most of the time, found out that he had leukemia. He’d never had any major health problems before, and he says, the diagnosis came, “out of the blue.”
“Age was always just a number to me, and I still feel that way,” Repsher explained. “I always feel like I could get on a BMX bike and jump off a ramp or skateboard and go on a half-pipe. My wife lost it. I was kind of in shock. I didn’t know anyone with leukemia and I had no familiarity with it, so we were just in complete shock. I don’t think I showed any emotion. I just kind of asked, ‘what’s the next step?’”
For 52 days, the next step was getting treatment at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, but that also meant being 90 minutes away from his family. Luckily, it didn’t take long for him to find some new, extended family, and a cause he could relate to.
“I was in the Rhodes wing at Penn and I saw something about the HEADstrong Foundation on the board,” Repsher said. “I went to the site, found out more about (HEADstrong founder) Nick Colleluori and how he created it, and I felt that I could relate to it. I was also able to have the Thanksgiving dinner that HEADstrong provided, which was fantastic. I also met (HEADstrong President and Nick’s Mom) Cheryl at a holiday dinner in December and told her my story.”
His story is one where he not only is doing his best to get healthy and help himself, but help others. HEADstrong and the Repsher family are proud to come together to raise money for those fighters who continue to battle against cancer. Click here to visit Jeff’s Fighter Fund page. Ninety cents of every dollar donated supports the HEADstrong mission.
In a cruel twist, Jeff’s family has been dealt another blow as his sales job has cut his salary and commission. His employer is only paying half of his salary now, and it intends to lay him off by the end of February. He is trying to get a stem cell transplant that will offer the best odds of long-term remission and survival, but the expenses are daunting.
“I’m hoping to get 20 or 30 more years out of it, but you never know,” Repsher said. “Luckily, my older brother is a 10-for-10 match as a donor and my sister, Bonnie, is a match as well. I’ll do the transplant at the end of February or beginning of March, then hopefully, I can spend some time with my kids.”
When the weather warms up, you can bet that he’ll be trying to make his way back to playing softball again. Berserk Athletics, an athletic apparel company, has pledged to donate $15 to his medical expenses per softball jersey sold here (LINK?). The softball community has stood strong with Jeff, throwing him a support party to help with the medical bills.
Repsher also plans on hosting a benefit wiffle ball tournament in Easton in March, featuring 12-15 teams, and then a much bigger outdoor slow-pitch softball tournament in the Lehigh Valley this summer. (LINKS?) Everything continues to revolve around his love of softball – and hopefully, he’ll back soon – but his goals for his treatment are much simpler than that.
He just wants to be able to be around his kids.
“They’re doing well.They’re playing soccer and basketball, doing karate, daycare for my son and third grade for my daughter,” Repsher said. “We’re trying to keep it as normal as possible for them,” Repsher said.
Nothing would be more normal for them to see their dad get his health back.