Stage 4 Cancer
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Hello --
I recently started training to get my sport pilot license here in Southern California. I am very interested in moving forward and gaining my private pilot license as well as getting a 3rd class medical in the future. I have some medical issues though and am nervous to apply for a 3rd class (and go in for the exam) knowing if I get denied, I can no longer fly with my DL as my medical.

As some background, I'm 32 years old now, and back in 2019 I was diagnosed with stage 4 rectal cancer. I underwent surgery to remove the primary tumor and received chemo/radiation treatments. Soon after I found I had a few spots in my liver that were burned out and a couple spots in my lungs that were burned out.

I have since been in remission for the past two years or so, and have not had to undergo anymore treatments, or be on any medications related to the treatment of cancer. 

I understand that there's about a three year waiting period from when I finished my most recent treatments to be considered for a 3rd class medical… but I don't know if it's worth rolling the dice to see, and perhaps get denied and barred from flying all together. I do plan on contacting a professional who deals with complex medical cases though to help me through this process when I do finish getting my light sport license.

Has anyone seen previous airmen get special issuances while still having stage 4 cancer, if the cancer is ‘in remission' at the time of application? Should I just be happy that I get to fly light sports and hang my hat there? I would love to fully pursue my love for aviation, but am scared that my thoughts of becoming a commercial pilot are all but a dream because of my diagnosis. 

I should note that before I knew about the light sport rules about not being able to use my DL if I got denied, I did submit a class 3 application, but I never went in to an examiner or saw a doctor afterwards. Will that application just expire if don‘t go see an AME? And it’s not considered a denial or anything if I never went in to see a doctor after I submitted that application, right? I never should have even started or submitted the app, but I was super excited to start my flight training and wanted to get the ball moving as fast as possible. I now obviously wish I would have waited … but I haven’t completely burned myself by just submitting an application and not following up with an AME, right? 

Thanks for any insight.

1 Replies
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Hi Joe,

We would love to help you navigate your options with obtaining a medical certificate.  It can potentially be complicated and convoluted.  For more information feel free to give us a call at 800-872-2672 option 3.  Thanks for flying with AOPA!