We are on a mission to provide hope to young adults battling breast cancer. We do this by granting Dream Vacations for a breast cancer battler and a guest of their choice.
This Dream Vacation is a request to help me celebrate myself, and that spirit that I have shown through one of the hardest times of my entire life.
- Lisa Siciliano, Dream Vacation recipient
Breast cancer warriors are typically told they cannot fly while actively in treatment. But having an upcoming trip can provide a sense of hope and something to look forward to during treatment.
That’s why our namesake and inspiration, Lisa Marzullo, was always asking her doctors, “When can I fly again?”, and that’s why it’s our mission to provide Dream Vacations to young adults battling breast cancer.
LISA SICILIANO'S BREAST CANCER BATTLE
A proud former Chicago Public Schools teacher, Lisa Siciliano is a PhD student earning her doctorate in Learning Sciences. In March 2021, at age 38, Lisa was diagnosed with triple positive invasive breast cancer, along with ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS). In one year she received 12 rounds of chemo, 21 rounds of radiation, multiple rounds of immunotherapy infusions, and began a 5-10 year journey of hormone medication. Prior to starting chemo, she underwent four failed rounds of fertility preservation (IVF). Because of this, Lisa no longer has eggs of her own for a child in the future.
But during her battle, she exuded a spirit and determination to face her diagnosis head on. “There is a word and cultural concept in Finnish - sisu - which encompasses the ideas of strength, perseverance, grit, determination, and resolve in the face of extreme adversity. When I look back, it’s astounding what I have been through and how I have dealt with it all. I am so proud of myself.” - Lisa Siciliano
WHY DID LISA SICILIANO WANT TO FLY AGAIN?
Because of the failed IVF attempts before chemo, Lisa is hoping to carry a child through donor eggs and IVF, and she would love to be able to find a potential donor that shares her heritage. The thing is, she only knew about her father’s Italian side, as she grew up reveling in Italian culture, and she had no strong connection with her mother’s Finnish side of the family.
That all started to change during her breast cancer battle as Lisa grew closer with her mother, sparking conversations about her Finnish heritage. Lisa now wanted to travel to Finland not just for herself, but also for her mother so she could show her mother just how important her Finnish half is to her. But with treatment and the pandemic, Lisa’s hopes were put on hold.
GIVING FLIGHT TO LISA'S FIGHT
The Fly Again Foundation created a custom 15-day Dream Vacation to Finland for Lisa and her husband Chuck. From saunas to a river igloo to an arctic treehouse, the Dream Vacation included stops in multiple cities so Lisa could fully immerse in the culture, but the most important was to ensure she visited where her Finnish family is from and where they live today.
While in Kokkola, Lisa had the experience of a lifetime when she met with many of her cousins, and saw photos and heard stories about her Finnish family she never knew. Through that day Lisa formed an everlasting bond and stays in touch with her Finnish family.
WHAT THE DREAM VACATION MEANT TO LISA
"We got to be us again"
Not only did Lisa get to meet her Finnish family and connect with her heritage, the Dream Vacation allowed for her and her husband, Chuck, to spend quality time together outside of their previous patient and caregiver roles.
Just sitting and drinking coffee together without anything to focus on except that moment was much needed. As Lisa puts it, it allowed them to be “us” again.
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