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By Kayla Giacin
Wednesday, August 8, 2012
Delta flight attendant Terry Boncada with CBTF Camp-Mak-a-Dream teens
Delta flight attendant Terry Boncada with CBTF Camp-Mak-a-Dream teens


Having had the opportunity to attend 3 sessions of the Heads Up Conference at Camp Mak-a-Dream in Gold Creek, MT over the past 2 years, I can speak about a question that has come up a countless number of times. It’s a simple word but has so much meaning.  This question among brain tumor survivors is often, “Why?”

“Why did I have to have a brain tumor?”

“Why do I have to feel so sick all the time?”

“Why can’t I be like my friends?” or even “Why is it so hard for me to make friends?”

These are only a few of the “why” questions that come up during discussions among survivors.

Luckily, finding support with one and other tends to bring out the positive outcomes for having been dealt such a difficult hand and many survivors will say that the connections we form with each other, the empathy we have for others, and the insight from our own experiences that we can share are some ways to make sense of the bad times.

After wrapping up a wonderful and inspirational session at Teen HUC this week, everyone began their travel home rightfully assuming that this specific journey was over and we would come home with new friends based on older experiences.  The group that attends from the New York area was very surprised to find out that this was not the case.

Being the largest group of travelers from a close area, 21 attendees comprised the New York group including participants, mentors, and CBTF staff.  We flew from Missoula, MT to Salt Lake City, UT before picking up another flight that would take us back to our home airport.  When boarding, there was a flight attendant who appeared to be upset.  Some of us figured it was part of the regular workday while others took a more serious note of his feelings.

About halfway through the flight this attendant, Terry Boncada, began passing out Delta Airline pins.  We asked if this was something he did for the kids on the flight and he said “No. Are you a part of the large group who’s on the plane today?”  We answered yes and he continued to say, “I’m passing them out to all of you.  I’ve had two craniotomies and just found out that I’ve relapsed.  Radiation is my last hope.”  He also told us that this is the first day he’s been back to work since he found out this news.

He talked to our group for a while and spoke very openly about his feelings regarding his diagnosis and having honesty with loved ones while going through what can be some very dark times.  He spoke with tears in his eyes and told us that we gave him hope for his future and made him realize how strong he can be.  It was a very emotional experience as he hugged some of us and we told him that we were inspired in return. The campers assured him that he has the strength to get through whatever life throws at him.

As we began our descent into Newark, NJ – Terry made an announcement over the loudspeaker letting the passengers know that they were lucky to be in the company of a group of young people who are battling or who have battled a brain tumor.  He went on to commend our strength and courage.  The passengers applauded his speech, making us feel like superstars!

Our return from Montana was nothing short of amazing because we were able to use our personal journeys to help Terry feel more confident in his – without even expecting this to happen.  I’m sure every single one of us has questioned our diagnoses.  As mentor Steven Hazlett said, “You go through life thinking things don’t make sense, asking why, why, why?”  But for our group of teen survivors at least, the answer has become a little clearer.

If you’d like to hear a sound bite from Terry’s announcement on the flight, follow the link:

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