Andrea Kelowna, BC

For Andrea Mayer, when it comes to getting to her cancer treatment in Vancouver, the difference between taking a flight and sitting on a bus couldn’t be starker. Because of the flights, Andrea says, “the appointments don’t interfere with my family; I don’t have to worry about my kids.”

When Andrea was first diagnosed with breast cancer in January 2003, she travelled more than five hours on a Greyhound bus to get from her home in Kelowna to her appointment in Vancouver every three months. “It was very challenging because I’m a single mother and my children were very young at the time.” Every time Andrea had an appointment in Vancouver she would have to find somewhere for her kids to sleep, arrange for a friend to pick her up from the bus terminal and drive her to her appointment, sleep at her friend’s house, and then take the bus for five and a half hours back to Kelowna the next morning to be home in time to pick her kids up from school.

She repeated this routine for five years after her diagnosis in 2003. Because Andrea’s mother died of breast cancer in 1999, she was tested in 2005 to see if her cancer was inherited from her mother. Though she had breast cancer, as her mother did, the test suggested that Andrea’s cancer wasn’t hereditary.

But a new diagnosis earlier this year cast doubt on that result. In March, oncologists told Andrea that she had a new breast cancer diagnosis. It wasn’t a relapse, but rather a new cancer incidence. “It was a carbon copy of my first cancer.”  The doctors in Vancouver tested Andrea again to check whether the cancer was hereditary, and they confirmed that it was and that the results from the first test weren’t accurate. “It’s almost like I’ve got chapters of a book missing from my chromosome.”

“We don’t even have the specialists in Kelowna. I need further surgery and the only place I can get it is in Vancouver."

With the new diagnosis, Andrea applied to the BC Cancer Agency for funding to subsidize expenses that she would incur because of her treatment, and it was then that the woman reviewing Andrea’s application told her about Hope Air. A friend who had had a flight arranged by Hope Air also reassured Andrea that the charity could assist her, so she requested a flight to Vancouver.

While Andrea still has ongoing breast reconstructive surgery after her prophylactic bilateral mastectomy, she has recently been diagnosed with fallopian tube cancer due to her BRCA1 genetic mutation. The new diagnosis means that Andrea has to take more time off work and put her breast reconstructive surgery on hold. “We don’t even have the specialists in Kelowna. I need further surgery and the only place I can get it is in Vancouver.”
Though Andrea will be beginning her third round of chemotherapy, she says that the flights arranged by Hope Air have made the process much easier.

“Hope Air is so helpful to me because the flights are all under one hour,” Andrea says. “I wouldn’t be able to be doing this if it wasn’t for Hope Air.” Now, because of the flights arranged by Hope Air, Andrea flies into Vancouver, takes the SkyTrain to her appointment, and flies home on the same day.

“All I can say is thank God for Hope Air,” she says. “It has been a literal blessing and I am very grateful.”