The ACES and Eights Foundation is a registered 501(c)(3) non-profit organization established to end 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 in 2016, and then painfully losing another friend in the summer of 2021, we decided we needed to do more. As a result, we formed this non-profit on 14 February 2022.
For a bit of background, I was diagnosed with testicular cancer on 15 February 2016. It changed our lives and the years that followed were difficult and disruptive for our family. After three surgeries spread over several years (including an intense round of chemotherapy), I began to seriously research possible causes for my illness. I accelerated my urgency to research this topic after several of my colleagues came up with cancer diagnoses too. In fact, after hearing about my case several I was originally unaware of began reaching out. My research approach was not very precise given my existing hesitation to target non-ionizing radiation (classical physics would not obviously imply a connection like ionizing radiation would). As a result, I wandered through a variety of topics before developing my own theoretical mechanism via tautomerization. I arrived at the unique exposure to both ionizing and non-ionizing radiation associated with the cockpit and the flight environment. It also quickly became apparent that aircrew diagnoses were happening at a higher rate than experienced in the general population. Finally, I discovered other interesting side effects related to the environment that are not detrimental but also appear to be artifacts of the exposure (such as offspring gender asymmetries).
Like many military families who move frequently, we relied heavily on the friendships we fostered throughout our career when going through treatment. For us, Kyle and Katie Wallace, who we met during our first operational assignment flying F-16’s together, were priceless.
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. Since fundraising would be required to aid them financially, we joined forces and formed the ACES & Eights Foundation with the following board of directors:
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, aircrew began frequently reaching out to me when they were diagnosed. I became increasingly aware of more and more families who were suffering.
In fact, each case follows an eerily similar script. Typically, I receive an email or phone call about their recent diagnosis or suspicion of cancer. As expected, most 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 as the family works their way through the surgeries and rounds of chemotherapy or radiation therapy. As their families deal with the disruption our ability to help is limited without more resources. Although we’d like to think that they benefit from the small support network we have already 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 suffer. 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.
Since starting the foundation our fundraising has been slow. This is likely due to a large number of factors but we are still a long way from our initial goal of $50,000 to begin helping families financially. 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 once we do hit our threshold, 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 “Fight’s On!” as our signature signoff in the ACES & Eights Foundation. Thank you for your support.
Dan “Animal” Javorsek, President