Breast cancer is a terrible disease. It strips many of its victims of their hair, whittles away at their spirit, and often times, leaves behind scars that serve as visible reminders of the battle waged. For Endeavor Flight Attendants Lori Eastman and Robyn Murphy, breast cancer invaded their bodies, but couldn’t defeat their will to survive.
Both women were diagnosed with breast cancer in 2010. At the time, both had other jobs; Eastman was, ironically, an advocate for the American Cancer Society, while Murphy was working as a marketing manager for an automotive manufacturer. While each woman’s walk with breast cancer was unique, the end result is one that gives this disease two faces, two voices, and two passionate adversaries against a disease that is expected to strike nearly 250,000 men and women this year alone.
Robyn came from a family of cancer victims, despite having no genetic disposition for the disease. Her mother died of colon cancer, and nine other family members were stricken with one form or another of cancer. At the young age of 22, lumps were detected during a routine visit to the doctor.
Thereafter, she started having annual mammograms, and over the years, her healthcare providers identified a series of growths that were progressing towards the point of concern.
“I remember the day I found out…” Murphy said. “Usually, they take the ‘glamour shot’ [Robyn’s word for a mammogram] and then sent me on my way. This time, they told me to go down the hall to a different room. I could tell something was different.”
What was different was the presence of breast cancer. The doctors ran tests, then called her with the news. They advised her to start an aggressive regiment of radiation and cancer treatments. Within a year, the cancer had been beaten into submission. Six years later, Robyn remains cancer-free.
Eastman recalls that while preparing for bed one night, she felt a lump under her arm. As someone who worked in the world of helping cancer patients, she thought her concerns of a personal cancer diagnosis was simply paranoia. She told her husband about the lump, followed by the ominous prediction that her life was never going to be the same.
As a precaution, Lori made her way to her doctor. Her fears confirmed, she underwent a barrage of tests. The worst case scenario played out – stage four breast cancer, with additional tumors in her liver, tail bone, and ribs. Knowing the statistics of stage four cancer, Lori began planning not for her future, but for her finale.
“I wanted to spend as much time with my grandchildren as I could, so they could know who I was,” Eastman said. “I wasn’t thinking about the next few years, I was thinking about the next few months. I just wanted to make it to Christmas.”
Eastman’s treatment plan included an aggressive AND offensive approach aimed at obliterating the cancer. Lori went through a similar treatment plan as Robyn, and within a year, she was pronounced cancer-free.
“I didn’t want to become the poster child for beating breast cancer; I just wanted to survive,” Eastman added.
Both Lori and Robyn recently learned that they were selected to take part in Delta’s 12th annual Breast Cancer One flight, in conjunction with the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, this year flying from New York City to Los Angeles aboard a pink-trimmed Boeing 767-400. They will join nearly 150 other survivors on this cross-country journey aimed at raising funds, and awareness, to combat breast cancer.
“It’s so good to be here, to be alive,” Lori admitted. “To be a part of this experience, you can’t even put it into words.”
“We won’t forget the people who made this possible for us,” added Robyn. “So many have lost their fight so we can live. Those diagnosed today will have a much better battle because of the efforts of companies like Delta and Endeavor, and all who support breast cancer awareness.”
If you would like to learn more about the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, please visit https://goo.gl/j8ArYB.