Updated: October 09, 2019 05:42 PM
Created: October 09, 2019 05:26 PM
CANANDAIGUA, N.Y. (WHEC) — October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and as thousands of women and some men in our community fight the disease, others are forced to travel to hospitals in bigger cities with more resources for their treatments. A network of volunteer pilots is stepping up to help those patients get where they need to go for free.
Mackenzie Rockcastle grew up in Bloomfield and has been battling breast cancer for most of her adult life.
“I was originally diagnosed when I was 21 with stage 1 breast cancer,” she tells News10NBC.
She thought she was cured, but the cancer came back. It first returned to her lymph nodes and then also to her lung. At the age of 30, she now has stage 4 metastatic breast cancer.
“We just try to have the best time we can and try not to think about the long-term aspect of having cancer. Kind of living in the moment more than looking to the future,” says Logan Rockcastle, Kenzie’s husband.
The Rockcastles travel and spend time with family and friends. In other words, they do what most young couples do, but they do it in between treatments at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute in Boston.
Kenzie is part of a clinical trial there, and the treatment has decreased the size of her tumors by 20%.
“So far, it's been working, and to have it work for a year is really significant because at my additional diagnosis a year-and-a-half was kind of the time-line that you're given and so to be 3 years out at this point, is pretty amazing,” she says.
The travel to and from Boston every three weeks has been exhausting and expensive.
“When I have had chemo and have to be in the car for six, seven, sometimes eight hours depending on traffic because Boston is pretty bad with that, It's really complicated for me to keep myself together,” she says.
That’s where Angel Flight comes in. Angel Flight is an organization of private pilots with private planes that donate their services and time to transport patients free of charge to treatments.
Bob Newman, a former Air Force pilot, flew Kenzie and Logan from the Canandaigua Airport to Boston on Wednesday.
“It's a lot of fun to fly, I get to go to cool places, and I really get to help people, it's just a great combination,” Newman said when asked why he donates his time and plane.
“Just coming here and just having no pressure, you almost look forward to going to Boston now because it's like an adventure,” Logan says.
It’s an adventure that’s helping Kenzie stay alive.
“It was so incredible to feel the kindness from a perfect stranger and someone that just genuinely cares, it's interesting because every pilot seems to have a story that connects them too,” Kenzie says. “The first pilot, I think said his wife had breast cancer and his daughter was my same age.”
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