Not even cancer could keep Vance instructor pilot out of the cockpit

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Zoë Perkins
  • 71st Flying Training Wing Public Affairs

VANCE AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. -- “When I initially found out I had cancer, I didn't fully comprehend how serious it was,” said 1st Lt. Jason Mavrogeorge, a squadron executive officer and instructor pilot for the 8th Flying Training Squadron.

Mavrogeorge was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a form of cancer that originates in the lymphatic system, in August of 2019.

“Once it set in that I actually had cancer, the priority was just getting that taken care of,” said Mavrogeorge. 

Although his flying duties as an instructor pilot were set to the side after his diagnosis to focus on treatment, Mavrogeorge continued to be a functioning part of the 8th FTS. 

“Even though I wasn't flying, I never felt like I wasn't having an impact here on a daily basis,” said Mavrogeorge. “It was huge for me to professionally still be doing something even if I wasn't flying.” 

After seeking several different medical opinions, Mavrogeorge decided to go with radiation treatment in the Integris Cancer Institute in Enid, Oklahoma, just outside Vance.

He started treatment in December of 2019, once a week for five weeks straight.

“The biggest thing for me throughout this whole ordeal was I learned a lot about my own resiliency as well as how important it is to have that support system around you,” said Mavrogeorge. “Even when you feel alone, you know that you have so many people that have your back, no matter what.”

During his treatment, Mavrogeorge was surrounded by countless numbers of friends and family who supported him and aided during his recovery process.

“The military is just a different breed of people,” said Mavrogeorge. “It's not a question of if you should help, it's a matter of how to help.” 

Weeks passed and in February of 2020, Mavrogeorge had his positron emission tomography scan at Brooke Army Medical Center, at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, to see how effective the radiation treatment had been.

Due to COVID-19, Mavrogeorge had a follow-up appointment via phone with the oncologist from the medical center to hear the results from the scan. The cancer had cleared up.

“I literally cried,” said Mavrogeorge. “It was a huge weight lifted off my shoulders when the results came back.”

He was eager to get back to flying and to put cancer behind him.

“My mentality from day one was just beating it and getting back to flying,” said Mavrogeorge. “This is what I love to do. It’s what I’ve always wanted to do, and what I worked so hard for.” 

With the help of the Vance Medical Group, Mavrogeorge was cleared and approved for flying again in July of 2020.

“I wouldn't be here without the support system I had,” said Mavrogeorge. “I’ll never be able to repay my coworkers, friends, and family for the generosity, hard work and encouragement they showed me.”