[Normally in this blog we profile Angel Flight passengers and pilots, but sometimes we receive a testimonial from a passenger that is so touching, we just have to pass it along to you verbatim. We recently received the following message from Anne Gonzales, whose husband, Ernest, needs to travel frequently from Santa Fe to Houston to participate in a clinical trial.]
By the time Ernest's esophageal cancer was discovered, he was at stage 4. He was quite sick and was losing weight and strength. The standard treatment available at this time only extends life for months; long-term survival rates are grim.
He almost refused any treatment (because of the horror stories about chemotherapy) until we went to MD Anderson last August for a consultation. When the doctor explained the clinical trial for immunotherapy, I saw my husband's eyes light up with hope for the first time since his diagnosis. He decided he would join the clinical trial as his best hope for survival and to assist with the approval of the drug for other patients.
But, we were in Houston during Hurricane Harvey, and MD Anderson was not able to start Ernest's treatment until Oct. 10, 2017, on his 72nd birthday. Another complication is that we have to travel from Santa Fe, NM, to Houston, TX, EVERY TWO WEEKS FOR A PROJECTED TWO YEARS! Without help, we would surely go bankrupt trying to cover all the expenses related to the travel and his treatment.
Our MD Anderson social worker referred us to Angel Flight, and the organization has proven to be a godsend! It has been a bit of a challenge to cover what is typically a three-leg journey each way, but we have been the recipients of a number of Angel Flights. Every pilot has been awesome, and every trip has been an adventure (especially the time we got grounded overnight a couple hundred miles from home due to storms).
[Shown above: Ernest flying in June with volunteer pilot Michael Sullivan (center) and his son. Pictured at top of article: Anne Gonzales snaps a pre-flight selfie with her husband, Ernest (center) and AFSC pilot Anthony Watson.]
While there are no guarantees, Ernest feels much better and is able to exercise (including golf) and continues teaching mariachi music to middle school kids in an after school program. And, we are able to continue to be involved in the lives of our three children, their spouses, our seven grandchildren, and our very special great granddaughter (who, along with her mother) lives with us.
We are celebrating Ernest's 73rd birthday this week, a birthday he wasn't sure he'd live to see.
We are living on our retirement income (he was an educator, I worked primarily in the nonprofit sector), and I had to close my home-based bookkeeping business because we are gone so much. Angel Flights have saved us several thousand dollars in airfare. It is too far for us to drive every two weeks. We would be on the road too much, we'd run our aging vehicles into the ground, and we'd be exhausted all the time.
We feel blessed and extremely grateful to Angel Flight South Central and Angel Flight West pilots. My husband's cancer is controlled, and he is able to eat normally and enjoy life again. Thank you for helping to save his life.