angelflights

Maureen Jensen and her husband produce the stylish LensArt magazine 

   LYNDEN ­— It was a difficult decision for Maureen Gallagher Jensen, her husband Brooks and her identical twin sister Mary Lou Childs to move from Anacortes to Lynden in (year).

  That’s because Maureen, 65, was already in chemotherapy for a rare form of ovarian cancer, and now she would be 30 minutes farther removed from her Seattle-area treatment, by driving distance. 

  But the trio agreed they wanted to be in a smaller, quieter, less expensive town, and so they went through with a house purchase, knowing this would likely be their “forever home.”

  Now Maureen can say “We Love Lynden,” but the credit for that is also very much owed to Angel Flight.

  The pilots of Angel Flight carry Maureen on a weekly or biweekly basis to the treatments she must undergo at the Seattle Integrative Cancer Center in Renton. And she is eager to praise this organization publicly.  

  “My quality of life was improved immensely in Lynden, and part of that is that I can now receive cancer treatments after a 50-minute flight, rather than more than two hours in the grind on Interstate 5,” she said in an email.

  This air travel also relieves either Brooks or Mary Lou of driving Maureen to treatment, which all in all took just about a whole day.

  Finding out about the California-based Angel Flight service, Jensen applied for it and was accepted. She was elated.

  “This is a completely free service,” she said by email. “Acceptance is not based on financial need; it is based on medical necessity, so Angel Flight West provides equal opportunity to all.” In reviewing applications, AFW looks at the distance involved, the difficulty of travel, and the impact on the wellness of the patient.

  As it turned out, the first pilot to transport Jensen was not of AFW — it was a Lyndenite who had read of her exciting news when she posted on Google Next Door. He lives right next to the Lynden Municipal Airport. “I was stunned, but I’m learning that the generosity and kindness regularly exhibited in this community is at the heart of what makes Lynden so incredibly special,” she said.

  In winter, flying out of Lynden is completely dependent on the weather. While pilots can activate the runway lights from their cockpit, Lynden does not offer the electronic assistance for flights coming in on instruments. “Safety is clearly the number one concern of the pilots,” Jensen said. “When things get too rainy or windy, we’ll divert to Bellingham or cancel the flight.”

  Pilots are not paid by AFW, and patients are not allowed to tip or otherwise transfer payment or gifts to the pilots, but Jensen has figured out a way to express her gratitude: “I always take treats from the Lynden Dutch Bakery. Who can resist in-flight service of muffins or scones? Otherwise I’ll purchase something yummy for them to enjoy at home.”

  She has had the most flights with Bellingham-based retired Air Canada pilot Jim Higginson. Others hail from further south, and may have non-aerial regular jobs. When weather totally socks in the skies, Jensen’s backup is Amtrak.

  Although a flight is out of Bellingham on occasion, she and the pilots love the little Lynden airstrip. Many pilots will fly in from their base airports elsewhere to pick her up.

  She describes the feeling of taking off from Lynden this way: “It’s a unique experience to roll down a runway, with a fellow waving while mowing his lawn. Once airborne, the scenery is fabulous: farmland, mountains, Mount Baker, the San Juan Islands, Seattle — and my destination, Renton, has a beautiful water approach.” Once on the ground she takes an Uber to the cancer center.

  She was diagnosed in 2011 with Granulosa Cell Tumors and, after undergoing two major surgeries, was placed on chemotherapy in 2015. 

  “GCT is not curable,” she said. “The tumors, like weeds, reseed in the pelvis and continue to grow new tumors.” She receives a low dose of chemo. “Our objective is to manage the cancer like a chronic illness, such as diabetes, while at the same time minimizing the side effects of the drugs, and keeping my immune system as healthy as possible.”

  The uniqueness of GCT keeps Jensen from being treated anywhere else but the Renton center.

  With cancer in check, Maureen spends a typical working day in her home office. She and her husband of 27 years are also business partners: they are co-founders, editors and publishers of Lens-Work, a high-end coffee table publication about fine art photography. It is published six times per year.