“When you are ready say, ‘I’ve got the plane’.”
“I’ve got the plane,” I said.
I never forgot that moment on a July evening in the practice area at Huntington, Indiana (KHHG). It was in a Cessna 150, N66155, and my dad was my flight instructor. At the age of 15, it was the first time I took the controls of a plane. The confidence I gained in that special instant changed my life.
“I’m afraid you may have a rare cancer called Carcinoid Syndrome ,” the doctor told me. A nurse stood by the door and the doctor sat beside me with his medical book.
“Carcinoid syndrome is…” He started to point to, and read, the summary from his book. I didn’t listen to anything he said but scanned down the page until I saw the section that read prognosis: 2-10 years.
My next thought was my two young sons. If I’m not around, how do I put 15+ years of fatherhood into the time I have left? What do I want to provide for them; a happy childhood, a memory, a life lesson?
Late one night several weeks later it hit me. I thought back to when I became a pilot and how it was one of the most profound moments of my childhood. The self-confidence I gained was immeasurable and I still carry it with me today.
I wanted to instill in my boys the self-confidence that they would need after I might be gone. I knew that the joy of flight could instill in them the same self-confidence I gained as a child. I wanted my boys to have the opportunity to literally, and figuratively, take over the controls and fly.
After visiting three hospitals it was determined that my diagnosis was not carcinoid syndrome, not terminal, and not serious. The doctor had been wrong and I had been blessed.
My life slowly returned to normal but my thoughts remained with those who were not as fortunate. Whether it is a parent or a child affected by illness, I recognized how the joy of flight could bring joy and confidence to those who need it most.
My youngest son and I had a chance to fly together last summer and the rest is history…