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F. Matson

I’m a gate agent in Atlanta.  I am 33 years old and I am a survivor. When I was 16 years old, my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer.  This diagnosis was an event that rocked our family to its core; however, she didn't go out without a fight. Instead she lived!  At the time, my sister was a Delta flight attendant, and so my mother took advantage of her flight benefits and traveled the world.  After a three-year battle, God decided that she had fought a good fight, but it was the time for rest and peace.  On Aug. 6, 2003, my mother passed away, and her battle with breast cancer ended.

As difficult a time as it was, something beautiful arose from my mother’s fight against cancer – a series of lessons. The most important thing I learned from my mother through her journey was not the devastation that breast cancer causes, not even the hurt and pain caused by losing a loved one, but that as a woman facing incredible odds she had an undeniable power and determination to evolve.  She refused to allow cancer to be her legacy. 

This lesson was all too important on March 14, 2011, when, at 28 years old, I too was diagnosed with breast cancer.  When I could’ve lost it all mentally, I instead tapped into that power, remembered my mother and sprang into action.

I underwent a double mastectomy in April 2011, followed by four months of chemotherapy.  I fought hard, came through and then just like my big sister, I began my journey to become a Delta employee.  I was hired in March 2012, and I must say this is perhaps one of my greatest decisions, in part because of the opportunity to travel and see the world, but mainly because of the love and culture of giving of our company.  The Breast Cancer One survivor flight is by far one of my favorite events, and I am so inspired by all of the awesome women I’ve met over the years.

Last year, I once again entered the fight of my life.  I found out that my cancer returned and had metastasized to my spine and underwent a surgery called a spinal laminectomy, which removed vertebrae at T6-8, and then a spinal fusion which placed titanium rods to hold the spots were those vertebra once were. After surgery, I had radiation treatment five days a week for three weeks, coupled with rounds of other therapies with the oncologist every three weeks.

As tough as it’s been, with strong faith and an extraordinary support system in my family, friends, and coworkers, I persevere and as of my last PET scan I am officially cancer free!  Just take this in for a moment: This time last year, I was 32 years old, on a walker, and unable to bathe, I'm back to work, working full flights at the world's busiest airport for the world's greatest airline! There are a lot of things that my legacy will entail when I'm gone, but dying of cancer at 33 years old and leaving my husband and babies behind isn't one of those things.  Cancer doesn't get to win...