ZoeJane Betker of Salt Lake City, Utah, was given only months to live two years ago, when doctors diagnosed her with terminal brain cancer a few days after Christmas. Today, with her 10th birthday on the horizon, the vivacious fourth grader is boarding her 17th Miracle Flight to the medical treatment that’s saving her life, 2,000 miles from home.
“Children diagnosed with DIPG (Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma) brain cancer are offered radiation, which will buy them a few months,” says ZoeJane’s mom, Jamie.
“Then parents are told to go home and make memories, with a prognosis of just six to nine months—twelve, if you’re lucky.”
Remarkably, radiation shrunk ZoeJane’s tumor more than expected. Then in April 2018, she was accepted into a clinical trial at NYU Legone Medical Center in New York City—a program that required the family to fly cross-country every few weeks. While grants from a pediatric cancer charity funded their first few flights, soon the Betkers were their own, wondering how they could afford to keep getting ZoeJane to the care she so desperately needed. A hospital social worker suggested they contact Miracle Flights for help.
The nation’s leading medical flight charity, Miracle Flights provides free plane tickets to families who need assistance reaching complex medical care far from home. Commercial flights are arranged at no cost to any medical facility in the United States, as many times as necessary.
The Betkers’ application was quickly approved, and on July 17, 2018, ZoeJane and her parents boarded their first Miracle Flight to New York City. Now nearly 24 months after her diagnosis, ZoeJane shows no symptoms; the only reminder of cancer is the MRI scan the family sees every eight weeks.
“Our fight to keep this tumor at bay would simply not be possible without the help we receive from Miracle Flights,” says Jamie. “Our baby girl is still with us, and Miracle Flights plays a huge part in that.”