TYNDALL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. --
The Air Force prides itself on professionalism. But some Airmen exude it, even through a diagnosis of a potentially deadly disease.
This week’s Unsung Hero is Staff Sgt. Michael Stanforth. He is the floor chief of the 43rd Fighter Squadron Aircrew Flight Equipment, and he is a cancer survivor.
“My job is to ensure the safety and integrity of the equipment and to make sure that everything is done correctly,” Stanforth said. “I’m kind of the reassuring factor to make sure everything gets done within the standards of the AFE.”
In his job, Stanforth’s professionalism and commitment to the mission sets a ‘remarkable standard’ for the Airmen he leads and works with, said Tech. Sgt. Christopher Battle, 325th Operations Support Squadron/43rd FS AFE NCO in charge.
“As much as we would all like to be perfect, we all have our slip ups,” Battle said. “With that being said, Stanforth is one of the few NCO’s that I have worked with that will automatically take notice into any infraction on himself, or lack of performance. He not only epitomizes our core values, he directly and indirectly communicates these through his infectious, positive attitude.”
That positive attitude was tested in July, 2013, when an injury during a intermural softball league game landed him in the hospital with devastating news.
“I was diagnosed with testicular cancer.” Stanforth said. “I went to the doctor on Thursday and found out they were going to remove my left testicle on Friday. I had to take that all in at once. Number one, I had the ‘C word,’ that’s what I call it, and two, I’m having surgery the next day.”
Once diagnosed, Stanforth had to go through the legal processes necessary if you think you are going to die, and he even created a living will.
“Once you hear that word, cancer, you think death,” said Stanforth. “But there is light at the end of the tunnel. You just have to push through the negativity.”
After the surgery, Stanforth endured 20 treatments of radiation, one a week. Now over two years later, he is in remission and has checkups every six months to ensure the cancer does not reappear. He regularly volunteers for organizations like Relay for Life and spreads awareness information as much as he can.
“Check yourself regularly, and if there are any lumps, pain or anything unusual, go get it checked out because catching it early can save your life,” Stanforth said.
Testicular cancer is the most common form of cancer for males ages 19 to 35, but if it is caught early, there is a 90 percent cure rate. Stanforth gave some words of wisdom for anyone going through a similar situation.
“Never give up,” he said. “When you are faced with a situation like that, you realize you have support groups you can rely on, whether it’s your immediate family, your military family or even cancer specific support groups.”