October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, a campaign to educate the public about the impact of this daunting disease. According to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation (BCRF), an expected 285,000+ diagnosed cases will occur in 2022 in the United States making breast cancer the second most common cancer among American women. Angel Flight West’s (AFW) volunteer pilots and airline partners help patients fight cancer from the skies.
AFW passenger Judith knows the journey well. She was first diagnosed in 2007, followed by a second diagnosis of stage II breast cancer in 2017.
A year later, Judith was diagnosed with an aggressive form of metastatic breast cancer. “It’s a very fast case. Some people find treatment that will work for years and are asymptomatic. Mine is different,” she explains. “Breast cancer is as individual as a fingerprint. I’ve had to rely on the next generation of treatment to stay ahead.”
That advanced treatment includes participating in clinical trials. Judith reached out to AFW in September when she was to fly to Los Angeles from San Francisco for an initial assessment for an experimental treatment at UCLA Medical Center. “It’s an intense experience,” she says. “You don’t know if you’ll be accepted. If they accept someone outside of the criteria, it might skew the data for people who might benefit from the medicine.”
And while Judith ended up not meeting the criteria for this specific treatment, she works hard to stay ahead of the science and research to make the best decisions possible for her health – and to help countless others. That includes being an administrator for a Facebook group with over 30,000 individuals affected by breast cancer – Breast Cancer Straight Talk.
“I have an advisory group of women who are oncologists and scientists,” says Judith. “We are helping others learn not to ignore dangerous signs and to understand clinical trials. We are helping others understand their breast cancer diagnosis because there are over 12 types and subtypes of breast cancer. We have relationships with organizations that specialize in breast cancer and reconstruction.”
With the online group’s ongoing growth, it’s clear that Judith and the rest of the administrators are helping others find answers and comfort during a worrying time. “The kindness supersedes the rest of it,” she says. “We do this thing called golden moments where we share the good things that have happened to us that week.”
Angel Flight West flies thousands of missions each year, including missions for patients battling breast cancer and to help patients reach clinical trials. Judith’s flight to UCLA was flown by AFW Volunteer Pilot Eric Chadwick. “I felt totally and completely safe with Eric,” says Judith. “The whole experience was easy.”
For her journey back home, AFW was able to use donations from the Passenger Assistance Fund to help with ground transportation to the airport while her return flight was generously donated by AFW partner JSX. “The entire experience was comfortable and effortless,” comments Judith.
Judith encourages anyone battling breast cancer to join the online support community by clicking here. Do you or someone you know need help traveling to and from health care? Let AFW provide a golden moment and reach out to us today.