The ACES and Eights Foundation is a registered 501(c)(3) non-profit organization established to raise awareness for aircrew cancer.
In poker, Aces and Eights is often called the Dead Man’s Hand and in many ways that is what each of our aircrew have been unknowingly dealt. Following my own experience with cancer and then painfully losing another friend in the summer of 2021, we decided we needed to do more and formed this non-profit on 14 February 2022.
For a bit of background, I was diagnosed with testicular cancer on 15 February 2016 and the years that followed were very difficult and disruptive for our family. After three surgeries spread over several years (including an exciting round of chemotherapy), I began to seriously research possible causes for my illness. This was because several of my colleagues were also coming up with cancer diagnoses and after hearing about my case they began reaching out. My independent research wandered through a variety of topics but eventually narrowed in on the unique exposure to radiation associated with the cockpit and the flight environment. It also quickly became apparent that aircrew diagnoses were happening at a higher rate than the general population and were associated with a variety of other interesting side effects (including offspring gender asymmetries).
Like many military families who move frequently, we relied heavily on the friendships we fostered throughout our career which for us fortunately included Kyle and Katie Wallace, who we met during our first operational assignment flying F-16’s together.
After experiencing heartbreaking losses of other pilots whose treatment was not as successful as mine, we realized a compelling need to help support those afflicted in a more formal capacity. By 2022, it was clear that a support network would be extremely helpful for other families but fundraising would be required so we joined forces and formed the Aces & Eights Foundation with the following board of directors.
|Vice President||Kyle Wallace|
Our goal is to:
- Raise awareness that this is, in fact, an actual problem
- Support families with a network whose experience can help them negotiate a very difficult time
- Support families financially for expenses not typically covered by insurance companies
- Fund research into possible causes of aircrew cancer
As a result of my frequent lectures and research performed on the side, aircrew began frequently reaching out to me when they were diagnosed. Sadly, I became increasingly aware of more and more families who were suffering.
In fact, each case follows an eerily similar script. I would receive an email or phone call about their recent diagnosis or suspicion of cancer. Most young people who are diagnosed are surprised and have an insatiable appetite for more information. In fact, the Education and Research section of this website is designed to help during that very first stage of acceptance. We then watch and assist as the family makes their way through the surgeries and rounds of chemotherapy or radiation therapy. We watch as their families deal with the disruption and help as much as we can but are obviously limited. Although we’d like to think that they benefit from the small support network we had developed the Aces and Eights Foundation is designed to formalize that process.
Unfortunately, not all cancers respond well to treatment and we have watched in agony as our friends suffered. After fighting for as long as possible some aircrew members do pass and we help the family set up a GoFundMe or related website to help defray the oppressive fiscal drain of the loss of their breadwinner.
If you are interested in Donating financially please follow the Donate link. If you are interested in volunteering your time as a member of our support network or if you would like to be connected for advice or apply for financial support please follow the Assistance link.
No matter what you decide, hopefully the information you gained by visiting the site has been helpful.
Finally, before any fighter pilot begins air combat they acknowledge the start of the engagement by calling “Fight’s On!” on the radio. Since our aircrew diagnosed with cancer are beginning one of the most important and dangerous periods of their lives we have adopted this as our signature signoff in the Aces & Eights Foundation. So if you are willing to join us get ready and thank you for your support.
Dan “Animal” Javorsek, President