5 Years Ago: My Cancer-Fighting Flight Over St. Cloud
Jim Davis has defeated cancer four times already; and as a long-time lover of flying he had set the goal of celebrating life by taking a cancer survivor with him in his plane in each of the lower 48 states. 5 years ago I was privileged to go up with Jim to become his 47th passenger.
Jim is a 74 year-old flying fanatic from Mountain Home, Arkansas — and has spent much of his life building airplanes, instructing in ultralights, and sharing the passion of aviation. Five years ago while he was in St. Cloud, he told his story to a group which focuses on the role his faith and positive attitude have played in his recoveries, as well as the important role cancer screenings and regular checkups play in survival.
He has defeated cancer four times already, with the most recent diagnosis of stage 4 liver cancer causing him to take a hard look at his bucket-list. Since learning of his condition, Jim Davis has embarked on this journey of a lifetime that began back on April 29, 2015 from the Marion County Regional Airport in Arkansas. (A few months ago Jim returned to his doctor for additional scans -- and doctors can now find no sign of his stage 4 cancer!)
As a two-time cancer survivor myself, I was excited to get the call from the American Cancer Society asking if I’d like to take flight with Jim in his Savannah XL dubbed Purple Passion.
We took off from the St. Cloud Airport for a flight over the area in the plane Jim built himself from a kit. The sticker on the console in front of me said, "Attention Passenger; This aircraft does not meet federal aircraft safety standards." That cracked me up.
Before we went flying, Jim and I visited for a while at the airport; telling each other our stories, sharing our cancer experiences, and getting to know each other a little bit.
Jim is part of his local Experimental Aircraft Association’s (EAA) Chapter 775, and has networked with EAA chapters from all over the country to assist with his journey. These local chapters have helped Jim find lodging, food, fuel for his aircraft, and of course, a cancer patient/survivor to give an airplane ride to. For more info on Jim’s adventure, follow his blog by clicking here.
Jim's spirit and energy were contagious, and I felt honored to be able to spend an hour with him as he shared what he loved with me -- flying. He will next move on to Wisconsin, the 48th and final state on his 6 month adventure before flying back to Arkansas for his homecoming.
As we pulled up to the hangar, Jim leaned over to me and said, "Now here's what I need you do Pete -- preach the gospel of health screenings so people catch this cancer stuff early."
I've often said that although cancer is a wicked deal, there are many special relationships in my life that I would not have had without it. People met, friends made, experiences shared. I am happy to add Jim Davis of Mountain Home, Arkansas to that list.
Now go get screened. (See, I'm doing' my job Jim.) Thanks for the memory.