A pilot dream takes flight
As a young boy on the soccer field, Mitch would often find himself gazing up at the sky to watch the planes pass overhead. “He loved sport but his attention was more on plane spotting than what was happening on the field!” his Mum Joanne said.
His fascination with aviation only grew from there. Mitch got his first taste of 'flying' in front of the computer spending many hundreds of hours on Flight Simulator with people he met online. The close-knit group would regularly ‘fly’ together and share their love and enthusiasm for all things aviation. His dream was to one day take to the skies as a pilot.
After completing the HSC, Mitch completed an IT traineeship while working hard towards attaining his Private Pilot's License. He and his younger brother Blake were both happily settling into life after high-school. “Mitch devoted all his spare time and money to flying lessons. When not pursuing his passion for aviation, he would spend time on his second passion - IT, building and maintaining PCs and servers,” he said.
Given his natural optimism, Mitch wasn't too concerned when he first started to feel unwell. But after many months of feeling constantly thirsty, tired, having no appetite and suffering severe weight loss, he decided to get checked out.
It was then that the family received the devastating news - Mitch had a brain tumour. He was 21.
As one of those happy-go-lucky kind of guys, I was under the assumption the illness would just pass without a problem. But I guess no one expects to get cancer.Mitch
Treatment began straight away and Mitch's life was put on hold. Mum Joanne left her job to care for him through gruelling rounds of treatment. Mitch endured surgery, four sessions of chemotherapy and 22 sessions of radiotherapy. He will require medication, blood tests and scans for the rest of his life.
Dad David said it's been a very challenging time for them all. “It's impacted the whole family in different ways.”
Throughout his treatment, Mitch's positivity shone through. “Mitch rarely complains and his positivity has amazed and inspired those around him, particularly during his cancer diagnosis and treatment. His gratitude and kindness have made the jobs of those caring for him so much easier,” Mum Joanne said.
Sadly, Mitch’s IT studies and pilot training had to be put on hold. “Not being able to study, I was determined to keep up my part-time job as much as I could throughout my treatment. It gave me a sense of normality.” Mitch said.
During this time, the closest thing to flying Mitch had was his computer-based flight simulator.
His Dad said nothing would make his son happier than getting back into the cockpit and re-starting his pilot training.
So, you can imagine Mitch's excitement when he was told he was being granted a Starlight Wish to train in a Virgin Australia Flight Simulator!
Being able to access a fully-fledged flight simulator and learn from the best is beyond my wildest dreams. It means the world to me.Mitch
Thanks to Starlight's supporters and official Wishgranting Partner Virgin Australia, Mitch's aviation dream is about to come true, and will mark the start of the next chapter in his life.
“As my condition grew worse I was unable to finish off my Private Pilot's License, and I had just a couple of test flights before the end. So, as my first reintroduction to the cockpit since my diagnosis, this will be a major milestone to me becoming the person I once was,” Mitch said.
His Mum and Dad said Mitch's Starlight Wish has given the whole family a boost, and him something to look forward to after surgery and all the treatments throughout 2016.
And to Starlight supporters, Mitch's Mum said:
Thank you for being a shining light in otherwise dark times. Your kindness has helped us to find positives in a difficult situation.Mitch's mum
In preparation for his Wish, Mitch has been spending numerous hours in front of his flight simulator at home. “Some things never change!” he admitted!
Since his diagnosis, Mitch has also become passionate about raising awareness around young men taking their health more seriously. He has this message for guys out there who might be a little hesitant to get checked out:
If you're worried about anything that seems out of place in terms of your body - see your doctor. Let them know what's been happening. Get blood tests done. Sure it might be awkward or uncomfortable, but it could very much save your life.Mitch
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