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Air Force Pilot Defies Odds, Returns To The Skies After Fight With Cancer

TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE (CBS13) — A Travis Air Force Base pilot takes his first flight after beating the odds.

It’s been a long journey for Major Matthew Bartomeo. But for the first time in 26 months, Bartemeo got to fly his C-5 plane– the Air Force’s largest aircraft, and he was all smiles

“It feels great. This is what was normal, this was what my life was before cancer,” he said.

With ten years in the Air Force, Major Bartomeo has flown all around the world. He’s always loved flying, and since high school wanted to do something bigger than himself.

“It was pretty sad to think I’d never fly again, and I’m pretty elated to now sit in the cockpit,” said Bartomeo.

In 2015, after what started as a lingering cough and night sweats Bartameo was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.

“No one in my family had Hodgkin’s, and at 30, you don’t think you have cancer, so we were shocked,” he said.

After 6 months of chemotherapy, cancer came back. But the airman kept his spirits high, all the while still reporting to duty at Travis Air Force base to be around friends.

“I knew I was gonna live through this, I knew I was gonna fight, I tend to fight everything I can in life,” he said.

Colonel Corwin Pauly acknowledges how dedicated Bartomeo has been.

“He never stopped working whether he had to wear a mask, or whether his hair was falling out,” said Col. Pauly.

In 2016, the treatments continued and after a bone marrow transplant, Bartomeo was declared cancer free– but now had another battle to fight.

The Air Force found him unfit for duty and wanted to medically retire him.

“It was pretty painful for a week cause I thought there’s nothing wrong with me, I can still serve, I can still do things better than other people, let me stay,” said Bartomeo.

So he fought. After a number of medical tests, and former commanders writing letters to support his appeal, Bartomeo won. And, the air force brought him back to full duty.

He can fly once again.

“It was a weight lifted off my shoulders now I can do what I love again,” he said.

“Knowing how hard he’s worked it was really rewarding to see him airborne again,” said Col. Pauly.

Bartomeo still has a few more requirements to complete but is ready to take his C5 worldwide. His team is happy and proud to have him back

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