Humanitarian reassignment; searching for hope amidst my father's cancer diagnosis

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Alysa Calvarese
  • 1st Special Operations Wing

It was the middle of June in Florida, the air was humid and the silence of the hospital waiting room clung to the air, its invisible arms providing a fragile shield of solace amidst the uncertainty.

As I sat waiting on the results of my father’s brain biopsy, my siblings sat next to me, not saying a word. After a while my mother walked over to us and with tears running down her face, she explained that my father’s tumor was malignant.

My father was diagnosed with a Glioblastoma stage-four brain tumor, known as the most aggressive glioma a person can have. On average, patients diagnosed with glioblastoma have a survival time of 12-18 months. However, the chances of surviving beyond one year are only 25%, and the probability of surpassing the five-year mark is merely 5%. The disease often proves fatal to those who are diagnosed with it.

My dad was not the epitome of health, but he had always been a very active person, whether he was gardening, fixing random objects or doing one of many handyman projects around the house. He was strong, capable and smart. I would have never imagined the label “cancer patient” would apply to my father, but who could?

To make matters worse, at the time I was stationed 2,000 miles away at Minot Air Force Base, Nd. My family, who resides in Pensacola, Fla., could only call to give me updates on procedures, doctor appointments and most importantly how my father was doing.

Although I had the chance to visit home for a short period of time during part of this discovery, I still felt as though I was so far away from my father during this difficult time for my family.

That’s when I decided to look into possible programs that could allow me to be closer to home. I had no idea that a program may exist, but I thought to myself, “there has to be something for someone in my shoes.”

I was overcome with joy when I realized that there was indeed a program.

“The Humanitarian Reassignment and Deferment Program assists active-duty Airmen in resolving severe, short-term problems involving a family member while Airmen continue to meet the needs of the Air Force,” stated Kat Bailey, Air Force’s Personnel Center Public Affairs personnel.

Airmen can apply for the program for a host of reasons, including, the death or sexual assault of an immediate family member, a financial hardship, or other challenging situations an Airman may face.

I immediately began researching as much as possible about the program, and filling out the proper form to submit my request so that I could be closer to my father.

Once the form was submitted to the Air Force Personnel Center, all I could do was wait to see whether my request would be approved or denied. It took approximately one month for my application to be processed, reviewed and approved.

I soon found out I would be reassigned to Hurlburt Field, Fla., about one hour away from Pensacola.

When I relayed the news to my parents, they were beyond happy, and I was so incredibly grateful to have the opportunity to support and spend more time with my father.

Since the discovery of my father's illness, we have reached the 12-month mark of his prognosis. As of now, considering everything, my father is doing well. He still does the little things in life that make him happy, such as watching his favorite Sci-Fi shows, taking on small household projects and most importantly spending time with family.

Being able to experience the joys in life with my father has made this time all the more special. All thanks to the Air Force for having compassion for Airmen and families in a time of need.

While there are still challenges my family faces due to my father’s illness, this experience has made it a little easier for my family.

If you are going through an unimaginable ordeal, whether it involves a parent or child, you can look into the Humanitarian Reassignment and Deferment Program to see if you may qualify.

It could make a world of difference for you and your family, just as it has for me.