TURNING NEGATIVES INTO A POSITIVE
Loriana Hernandez Aldama
Former news anchor and journalist
The loneliest time in Loriana Hernandez Aldama’s life was when she boarded a plane alone in Austin, TX, in January 2014. She was on her way to Baltimore and a bed that was waiting for her at Johns Hopkins Hospital.
Only a month earlier, Hernandez Aldama had her life “planned down to a T,” she says. She had a one-and-a-half year old son, Gabriel, and was preparing to have a second child through IVF.
After nearly 10 years of living in different states, she was moving to Northern Virginia to be with her husband, Cesar Aldama, the senior news director for Comcast SportsNet. She had left a job she loved as news anchor with Fox 7 in Austin, TX, but she planned to look for another job after she moved.
Then, after a routine blood test for the IVF, her doctor called. “He said, ‘you have cancer [and] we’re going to need you to fight for a whole year,’” says Hernandez Aldama, who was ultimately diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia. “That was like two daggers going into my heart.”
Between January and September, Hernandez Aldama stayed at Hopkins for four cycles of 40 to 60 days each, leaving only for two weeks at a time to visit Gabriel, who was living with her 70-year-old mother in Atlanta. Finances were a struggle, especially because the Aldamas had just bought a house. So was loneliness, because Hernandez Aldama didn’t know anyone in Baltimore.
At Hopkins, though, she met fellow honorees Jennifer Aparicio and Maria Dennis. “They would see me in my room alone and come get me,” she says. “[They] kind of adopted me.”
She also became part of a Leukemia & Lymphoma Society study that changed the course of her treatment. Last fall, she was cleared to go home. But researchers working on the study, which looked at what was going to happen to participants’ cells in the future, saw that her cancer was coming back. So Hernandez Aldama had a bone-marrow transplant last October. Luckily, her sister was a match. Otherwise, “it would have been slim pickings because I’m considered mixed race,” she says. “There’s not a large base of donors of mixed race.”
Although Hernandez Aldama is in remission, her life has changed drastically. She loved being an anchor, but is too nervous that working the 70-hour weeks will take a toll on her health. Her liver and kidneys are damaged, and she has challenges with her vision. “You’re thrust into this world, and you’re like, ‘Now what do I do with myself?’” she says.
But Hernandez Aldama believes in taking “a negative and turning it into a positive.” So she started the ArmorUp Campaign, where she urges others to take a 100-day challenge — the length of time following a bone-marrow transplant when people have the highest risk of complications — to adopt healthy habits. “The best gift people could give me is to take care of their health,” she says.