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Take Off Talk

Distance can be a major barrier to accessing quality healthcare in a timely manner. For patients, access to air transportation can make all the difference in getting the treatment they need. However, flights can be expensive, and putting off medical care because of costs can put you or your loved ones at risk. That's where Angel Flight East comes in.

Welcome to Take Off Talk with Angel Flight East, a nonprofit dedicated to facilitating free air transportation for children and adults with medical conditions who need treatment far from home. Our organization covers a 14 state footprint from Virginia to Ohio to Maine and for further distances, we partner with other public benefit flying organizations.  No matter how many times you need to get to your medical treatment or see a loved one in need, we are here to help. Unfortunately, few people know about free services like ours, and thus cannot use them when needed. We don't know how many people forgo medical care because they don't have accessible transportation, and that's what this podcast is here to change.

Shani Billings' Journey: Battling Colon Cancer With Angel Flight

TTAFE - DFY 18 | Angel Flight

Traveling from state to state on a commercial flight while dealing with a health condition can be extra challenging. Extending their arms to provide a valuable service, Angel Flight East takes that burden off for many patients. Today, we hear from one of the passengers as she takes off with Angel Flight while battling with colon cancer. Shani Billings shares how grateful she had been with the program that helped her combat her health condition. From being clouded by the storm clouds of cancer, the sun finally shines for Shani to walk down the aisle on a white veil occasion. Let’s venture into this inspiring episode with Shani Billings today.




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We have one of our passengers, Shani.

Shani, we are so excited to have you. I feel like I talk to you more than my parents sometimes.

It's a pleasure to be here and talking with you both.

If you are comfortable, can you tell our audience about your medical journey and how you found Angel Flight East?

In 2021, I was diagnosed with colon cancer. I had surgery and I got chemotherapy, and I was having trouble with the chemotherapy. I needed to get to Boston to find out why I was not responding well to the therapy. I was having some allergic reactions to the medicine. A friend of mine mentioned it and then my daughter reached out to Angel Flight to see if they could help get me to Boston to get the support that I needed to be able to continue with the treatments.


TTAFE - DFY 18 | Angel Flight


I love it when it's the family members getting us all connected.

It was my daughter.

I have the reverse story. My mom got me connected to Angel Flight.

She did. She's still with us.

After how many years?

Too many, 2018. I do want to know a little bit more about the flights that you have taken with us. How have they been?

They have been amazing. The pilots are fantastic. They are so kind and willing to give up their time so that I can be able to continue to get the lifesaving treatments that I need. They continue to do it for other passengers as well. I have met so many wonderful pilots who give up their time and bring their planes right into Bar Harbor, Maine so that I can fly to Boston. I'm now working in New York City with the doctors down there, and some pilots have brought me to New York so that I can continue to get the treatments that I need. They are wonderful.


"The Angel Flight pilots are willing to give up their time to get you the life-saving treatments you need."


Do you have a favorite? We won't tell the others.

I love them all the same. It was in September of 2022, there was a pilot that went to Maine Maritime Academy here in Maine. He knew different people. He knew the area. That was fun to be able to talk with him and have him know our local restaurants and the people that I know. That was fun. There was another pilot that he had an incredible private jet and that was Bruce.

Was the maritime person Bruce? Bruce loves flying to Maine. I bet it was him.

It might have been. He was fantastic.

If it's who we think, we agree.

They have all been fantastic. You remember things about them and those are the two that have stuck out.

How many times have you flown with Angel Flight so far?

Quite a few. I am not entirely sure. Maybe ten.

I meant to look it up before I started chatting with you, but I forgot.

We get distracted sometimes.

Very easily.

I understand that completely, 100%.

I heard that you referred to the treatment that you are receiving as life-changing. Exactly how would you say Angel Flight East has affected your life other than those adjectives?

They have made it possible to get to the destinations to receive the treatments. There's a lot that when you go on a commercial flight, which I am grateful for as well you have to go through security. You have to be there two hours early. There's a process, as we all know. When they fly into Bar Harbor, pick you up, you are on their plane, and off you go. There's no waiting in security. With somebody that had colon cancer that was something that made it a lot easier for me to do.

Going through an airport, especially the bigger ones, like the Boston Logan.

You know when you feel good, it's not fun.

That part makes it easier because you don't have to go through all that. You can show up. I just flew in. I will be there in 5 minutes or 15 minutes. It's easy. That's the nice thing about flying with Angel Flight. When you get there, you have an Uber come to pick you up and it takes you right to where you want to go. That is amazing as well. All these things make your experience so positive rather than so stressful. Navigating Boston or New York is a bit of a challenge if you haven't been there before.

To try to do that and not feel well makes it even more difficult. To have the opportunity to just get in the plane, they fly you into, for example, Teterboro, call an Uber, and off you go. That has been wonderful. The pilots are so helpful. They shared their experiences and ways that they can help you with other things to make your journey a little bit easier. As we know cancer or any other health issues aren't always easy to deal with. You have to travel and you have all these other parts. It's one way that it makes it a lot easier.

I'm glad we make people's lives easier. I wish somebody would make Maddy’s and my life easier.

You don't make my life easier, Jess.

We will make it easier.

We are going to have to road trip to Maine.

I made my mom's road trip to Vermont with me in 2022.

She's never going again.

I will go with her. I was going to say you probably have the prettiest flights of all of our passengers, Maine to Boston and then New York. Are you kidding me?

In the fall.

That's what I'm saying. I'm only sick in October.

The gentleman that had the brand-new jet. He was like, "Do you want to fly over Bar Harbor?" He took us over to Acadia National Park, and you could see the beauty of the park. Bar Harbor is beautiful. That was fun. Some smaller planes are a little bit lower and you can see some of the other towns and cities. Generally, the pilots fly on the coast, they don't go inland. You get to see a nice part of the states that we go through.

I don't think we have ever flown to Maine. We only drove that one time. I made Maddy's road trip about seven hours to Maine.

If you remember, we flew into Maine and then had to road trip into Maine.

It was a three-hour ride to where we were going. It was a ski resort.

In Newry. You not knowing it tells you exactly where it is.

In the middle of nowhere. We had a great time.

We did. We made a Red Bull stop and we are walking to this gas station and we are like, "What's their do around here?" They are like, "Nothing. Don't hit a moose." We are like, "Okay."

Before you found Angel Flight, were you driving to your treatments or how were you considering getting there?

If we hadn't found Angel Flight, we probably would have had to drive to Boston. That would have been probably my first thought. Having colon cancer, the whole sitting is a problem. You want the fastest way to get to your destination. New York, if it hadn't worked out, I probably would have looked for more of a commercial flight because you need to get there. The whole sitting is an issue.

I was just wondering if you would even have gone to New York without us.

You made that possible. That got the ball rolling. That's what I was saying when we were talking that it is offering lifesaving treatments to people who might not have gone elsewhere like to go to New York and to call up Jess and be like, "I have to go to New York because my cancer is back. Can you get us there?" That opened up the possibility to go to New York and get the treatment that I needed to try to take care of the cancer that I have. Without it, I probably would have dug my heels.

We are happy you did it.

I'm very thankful for Angel Flight. It's a fabulous program that helps people who might not generally go out of state to get treatment. It just makes it that easier.


"Angel Flight is a fabulous program that helps people that might not generally go out of state to get treatment and just makes it easier."


When your daughter first told you about finding Angel Flight, were you like, "You want me to get in a what and go where?" Were you, "Let's get in the small airplane and go?"

The small airplane does not bother me at all. We have been in 2, 4, or 6-seaters, and we have been in some small planes. It wasn't about going and getting the treatments. I don't want to go here. I just want to stay and make it easy here. The opportunity to get well wasn't here. I had to go someplace else because it was a very complicated situation. Due to Angel Flight, it got me to go to New York and see what else is out there. New York was a life-saving trip. I mean that sincerely. Due to Angel Flight, that opened up possibilities that I didn't even know were possible. I'm super thankful.

I'm going to cry again. It's just what happened.

Not again. Jess is our little waterworks over there.

That's okay. You must always have a supply of Kleenex.

I'm going to have to get some for our office. Maddy and I work side by side together. We share an office. She sees everything.

She knows how many times I call you.

What would you leave our audience with? What is one last thought you would want to say?

If anybody is struggling with help conditions and they need to go elsewhere to get treatments they should reach out to Angel Flight, it would make the opportunity so much easier.


TTAFE - DFY 18 | Angel Flight


I also have to say, Shani got engaged, so now we are in the process of wedding planning and we are so excited for you.


Thank you so much. It's August 13th, 2023.

We can't wait to see all the pictures. It's going to be beautiful.

You may just notice two blonde heads in the background of all of your wedding pictures.

If you guys want to show up, you just send me a little text, Jess. We are heading to Maine and we are going to be there. Another plate at the table.

What a small world. Any reason to go back to Maine? They have great craft breweries there.

You could go and check out all of the breweries along the way. That's a treat.

Don’t tempt us with a good time.

I'm just saying we have got great food here and we have got great beer. You should come and check it out.

I'm so excited. I'm going to pencil that in.

You send me a text if you think you are coming because I will put two more plates on the table.

We appreciate you sharing your story. You are the best, and we love you.

Thank you so much. I appreciate everything that you have done for me too.

I got chills. I love it.

This is the best day ever.

I'm glad that you are having a good day.

Thank you again and we will chat soon.

Sounds good. It was so nice to meet you, Maddy and Jess. I will chat with you soon.

Talk to you soon.


Shani is the best. She's one of my favorites.

We are going to this wedding. I hope you know that.

I was hoping you were going to say that.

I'm a 100% committed.

When is August 13th, 2023?

It's the weekend or the week before we go down the shore with my family. It's a good time.

It is.

We can make Shani's cover art at her wedding.

Like her social media posts?

Yeah. Same thing.

Could you explain to somebody? We are going to go to Maine for one of our patient's weddings. That's how special we are.

I don't think anybody would question us. That's my favorite part.

Nobody ever questions us. I question us.

I was going to tell you, I questioned us quite a bit.

I questioned us at the Keswick Tavern.

I also think that the guys who work on the line question us a lot more than a bit. They have concerns about us. It's a road trip. I don't think so. They think that we have lost a few marbles.

We don't have any brain cells left. We have about two.

It's a loaded question around here. Together, I think we have two.

Two is better than one.


TTAFE - DFY 18 | Angel Flight


That's how you get both of us.

We are a package deal. I feel people just assume that too. If one of us is there, both of us will be there.

That's why sometimes we don't get invited to stuff.

I know. We have more fun together. Except you just roast me all the time.

That's what makes me funny because you are weird. Thank you guys so much for tuning into another episode. We hope that you loved Shani's story as much as we do. Keep an eye out for wedding pictures because you know we have to share them.

You know we will be there. Have a good day. Bye.


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