The cadets in the Air Force Flight Academy undergo the most difficult tests in the Israel Defense Forces.
For three years they are under grave pressure, on an arduous track and faced with challenges only few can pass.
But 21-year-old T., who was raised in Ramla, had another huge challenge to add to his list - a battle with cancer.
He "won the fight" and on Thursday will be adorned with the wings at the ceremony held at the Hatzerim IAF base.
T. was diagnosed with cancer midway through his training, but decided that the ailment would not prevent him from completing the course.
He convinced his commanders and doctors that it was best for him to continue on with his fellow cadets. "I spoke to commander after commander and managed to convince them all as well as my doctor,"
"Going home was not an option. If you believe that you can, you will succeed. Not just in relation to the pilot's course but regarding life in general."
Triumphant Lieutenant T. (Photo: Herzel Yosef)
T., who will serve in a transport plane team, lives with his family on a southern moshav, but his desire to be a pilot goes back to his days in Ramla, when one of his high school teachers took the class to see the flight academy graduation ceremony.
"Before that, I didn't even think about the Air Force.
I wanted to be a combat soldier, but when I saw the flyover and the ceremonial lineup, I decided to go for it."
His family is an active participant in this endeavor and one of his brothers is also in the course. According to T. "my 16-year-old sister will also try getting accepted and my 13-year-old brother wants to as well."
Following the navigations, officers' course and outdoor survival and during a simulated flight in Belgium,
T. discovered that something was wrong. "I started feeling pain. I continued on and ignored it, but when the pain persisted for a few days, I went to the doctor. This is how it all started. They discovered that I had cancer and the treatments began. This happened a year and a half into the course, in the first flying phase."
T. had to undergo an operation and chemotherapy, but decided to look at things in a positive light, as he says. "My parents were stressed but I took things differently. It is not the end of the world. I thought how this would affect the remainder of the course.
"I had two options – to overcome the disease and leave the academy or to continue. The commanders
knew that I needed to undergo a series of treatments and an operation and let me focus on healing and only afterwards, deal with the bureaucracy."
IAF cadets finish pilot training (Photo: IDF Spokesperson's Unit)
He underwent intensive treatments for three months in which he prepared for his degree in Economics and Management.
"I tried making it to tests so that when the disease lapsed, the gaps wouldn't be too large to fill. What helped me the most was that after the treatment, when I went back to school one of my friends from the course sat with me one-on-one and got me caught up on all the material."
T. finished the treatments successfully and passed all his exams. "This was my second best semester,
I had an 88 average."
Because of the illness, he was forced to sign a release form from the army and to return as a volunteer. "The word cancer is very loaded and everyone around me was stressed. All the possibilities were open before me. The staff thought about suspending me from the course so that I would rest and recover.
"But I didn't accept this approach.
I thought that being at home and staring at the walls was not going to get me out of this. Actually, doing things, being with people, is what would help me overcome this disease. It took some time to convince the staff but at the end, I convinced everyone."
After the ceremony, T. is expected to return to his friends at the Soroka
University Medical Center in Beersheba's Oncology Unit and talk to patients. "I want to motivate them, so that they smile a bit. There are a lot of thing that seem impossible. But with a little perseverance and motivation, they can be done," he concluded.
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