UPS Pilot Gary McDowell’s Cancer Fight #SightFight4G
In the spring of 2017, 1st year UPS pilot Gary was preparing for his probationary checkride, a term familiar to airline pilots; it’s basically a make-or-break for the job, which leads onward and upward to a successful career. It can bring fear and trepidation for many of us who have been there. During this time, Gary had to also face the uncertainty of follow-up scans after being declared cancer free in 2015 from a rare form of cancer called esthesioneuroblastoma. It’s an aggressive cancer that starts in the nasal cavity. The results of additional testing were not good. The cancer had returned and now the fear was not whether he would pass a checkride but if he would lose his eyesight and even his life as the survival rate for recurrent, metastatic esthesioneuroblastoma is marginal at best. Gary never got to take that checkride.
Let’s back up a little. Gary knew he wanted to fly after UPS pilot Mike Roberts took him flying when he was in 3rd grade. He attended MTSU and graduated in 2001 with an aviation degree and was quickly hired at Corporate Express Airlines in Nashville. From there he went to work for ASA Airlines in Atlanta where he became a captain and worked for 12 years. Years of commitment and hard work led him to his dream job and career destination of UPS when he was hired into the pool in late 2014 and called for a class in the summer of 2016.
Gary’s cancer fight has been an arduous ordeal and not for the faint of heart (or stomach) to follow. Should you like the details, www.sightfight4g.com
is available to help you understand exactly how difficult the last 5 years have been. Following the 2017 scan, surgery to remove Gary’s left eye was just the beginning of aggressive treatments and more surgeries. In short, Gary has had 2 craniofacial resections involving multiple surgeons, a neck dissection to remove diseased lymph nodes in his neck, a surgery near his right (only) eye to debulk a new tumor, several smaller surgeries, radiation therapy twice, round after round of chemotherapy/immunotherapy/targeted therapy and countless trips to hospitals and doctor’s offices. Yet the cancer has metastasized to bone in his spine, ribs, hip and arm. He has another debulking surgery scheduled soon in an effort to save his remaining eye, and therefore his sight, a little longer.
The stark reality of this cancer is that Gary will likely lose his vision entirely within 6-12 months barring a miracle. His life expectancy is perhaps 2-3 years longer, again without a miraculous event.
Speaking of miracles, Gary, his wife Brooke, his two children-Sarah Grace (12) and Miller (6) are a family of faith. Faith in God has been their cornerstone and they ask above and beyond anything, for your prayers for strength and guidance in this most difficult time.
What we would ask for in addition to your thoughts and prayers is to donate whatever you can, large or small so that Gary can rest assured that Brooke and the kids will be taken care of when he’s gone. While fortunate to be a part of the UPS/IPA (Independent Pilots Assoc.) family, there have been and will be many expenses in the near term, and of course long term, that are not covered with Gary’s career cut so drastically short.
100% of the funds will be used to make the McDowell family somewhat more comfortable during the next few months while transitioning the house for a blind person. Your generosity will also allow Gary to feel like his family will not need to worry about things in the next several years like basic home repairs and maintenance, short and long term savings, college tuitions, and routine unplanned expenses that his job would have covered in abundance had he been able to continue on his career path at UPS.
Gary has been quite an inspiration to the many folks he and Brooke have encountered in the medical community as well as friends and family with his positive outlook and constant smile. However strong they may appear, rest assured that this journey has been a battle and while the fight is raging, your relentless support is needed more now than ever. Thank you for listening and we thank you in advance for your outpouring of support. #SightFight4G
A joint effort by Craig Smith (SWA) and Erik Holmbjork (UPS) on the behalf of Gary and Brooke McDowell.