This Group Offers Travel as a Form of Healing for Women With Breast Cancer

Fight Through Flights wants Black women navigating breast cancer to feel empowered by travel.

This Group Offers Travel as a Form of Healing for Women With Breast Cancer

Fight Through Flights was formed in 2020.

Photo by Alec/Caye Caulker Visuals

When Alicia Tambe and Esther Tambe witnessed their sister Maria’s battle with breast cancer, they were inspired by how her diagnosis never stopped her from traveling the world. While waiting for her initial test results, she hopped on a plane to destinations like Trinidad for Carnival, and her love for seeing new places carried her through her final days.

After Maria’s death, Esther and Alicia launched the nonprofit Fight Through Flights in 2020 to provide wellness and travel experiences for Black women with breast cancer—a demographic that is more likely to die from the disease than any other racial group in the United States due to biological and socioeconomic factors.

Combining the expertise from their professions—Esther is a registered dietician and Alicia is a lawyer who runs a travel group—Fight Through Flights also provides mental health resources to those involved in the program. They have received donations from friends, family, and colleagues, as well as breast cancer survivors and those who have lost loved ones to the disease.

The Black Travel Alliance donated $5,000 to help fund a recent Fight Through Flights leadership retreat in Belize that strategized on ways to support Black women with breast cancer. There have been four inaugural programs this year, and a second round of these programs will launch later in 2022. These experiences include road trips, staycations, and Room to Breathe trips that offer a free night in a hotel room to rest and get away from life’s distractions.

To those who have been recently diagnosed, Alicia Tambe says, “There is a community out there waiting to welcome you. There is a strong group of Black women organizations putting in the work already; we just want to complement these efforts. There really is a sisterhood, and you are not alone.”

Tambe recently chatted with AFAR about both the vision and the ongoing work of Fight Through Flights.

Alicia and Esther Tambe launched nonprofit Fight Through Flights after their sister, Maria, lost her battle with breast cancer.

Alicia and Esther Tambe launched nonprofit Fight Through Flights after their sister, Maria, lost her battle with breast cancer.

Photo by Dotun Ayodeji

In what ways have you found that travel can help those facing a breast cancer diagnosis?

Travel can serve as an opportunity to self-heal and step away from trauma. You really don’t know how heavy a burden is until you step away from it, even for a few hours. We have been told our experiences have given women an opportunity to recharge and enjoy themselves, guilt free.

You can have supportive family and friends but sometimes you need to get away, or sometimes you need to be with those same people in a different setting, whether they are your caregivers, spouses, friends, or children. You have to remember life before cancer and remember you. Sometimes you need to celebrate your Cancerversary or just the fact that you survived another day. And as Black women, we often hold the role of caregiver and not caretaker over ourselves.

What do you take into consideration when planning travel experiences?

Everyone is different. You can’t create a program thinking every Black woman with breast cancer needs the same thing. You and I are different. We have different interests and different responsibilities and different experiences, and that has to be taken into consideration. So we make sure our programs are flexible. For example, on our Room to Breathe program, you can use the free hotel stay anywhere in the United States. Some women have needed it to be close to family, others have wanted to spend time with their kids, and some women have just wanted a night alone. We want every woman to leave feeling empowered, whether it is learning how to cook through a cooking course, doing a personal photoshoot, getting a makeover, or trying a reiki experience.

Fight Through Flights held a recent leadership retreat in Belize. What were some of the biggest breakthroughs?

We had five ladies attend and it was an absolutely phenomenal experience. All of the ladies were breast cancer survivors but also leaders in the Black breast cancer community. We had women from the American Cancer Society, For the Breast of Us, the Survivor’s Nest, and one attendee was a triple board certified infectious disease specialist doctor.

This was all about resting and recharging while working. Each of these ladies serves a community, and if they do not get to rest and recharge, then serving the community in the most impactful way can’t happen. The main objective of the retreat was for these women to come together and collaborate on a program or initiative that they could pay forward while carrying out the FTF mission. They will work over the next year to carry out the project, from an action plan to fundraising to implementation. I can’t announce it yet, but the project will impact so many women and definitely will have a travel component. We did have a lovely mix of work and play that included massages, group yoga, meditation, and day excursions like boat rides, swimming with the sharks, and an island tour. It was a great balance.

What do you want our readers to know about the disparities that Black women face with breast cancer diagnosis?

If the stats show that Black Women are more than 40 percent [more] likely to die than any other race or ethnic group from breast cancer, then we need to have a stronger focus on health equity across the board. Many organizations are focusing on research, but the stat alone causes trauma and fear. We need more programs to help more Black women cope during and after treatment. We need to know there are resources for survivorship. We need to know there are experiences that can be provided beyond treatment. Your mind and spirit have to be right for your body to fight. That is what we want to offer.

How do you want Fight Through Flights to grow in the coming years?

We want our leadership retreats to go global and allow for an exchange of ideas between Black women across the African and Caribbean diaspora. This is not just an African American issue and it is important to really understand how breast cancer impacts Black women across the globe. We want to develop a strong network of Black women who can explore the world, even if it is just their neighboring state.

>> Next: What Traveling to Every Country in the World Taught Me About Race

Kristin Braswell is a travel journalist and founder of Crush Global Travel. She has penned pieces for Vogue, CNN, USA Today, Essence, NPR, Architectural Digest, Ebony, and the Los Angeles Times, among others. Her perfect day includes soca music, rum, and the ocean.
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