Sisters Esther and Alicia Tambe are supporting Black women all over in their cancer fights. After their eldest sister Maria passed away from metastatic breast cancer, Esther and Alicia created Fight Through Flights, a nonprofit organization that “aims to empower and support the healing of Black women with breast cancer and breast cancer survivors by providing free wellness retreats and travel experiences.”
“As we were going through the process of mourning, [we realized] we wanted to put our passions together and help other women. We realized there were a lot of racial disparities for Black women with breast cancer,” recalls Esther, who is also a registered dietician.
According to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, between 2010 and 2014, Black women were 43 percent more likely to die from breast cancer than white women. Differences in access and quality of health care and treatment are among the factors that contribute to this statistic.
Traveling the world was something that the Tambe family experienced together, and after Maria’s breast cancer diagnosis, it was a way for them to recharge and treasure life’s little moments.
“This is why we wanted to be able to provide travel experiences and wellness retreats to offer relief and to give [warriors] another form of self-care,” Esther shares.
With programs such as “Staycation Serenity” and “Road Trip to Recovery,” Fight Through Flights caters to Black cancer warriors who are immunocompromised as well. The experiences go to the warriors instead.
“We also recently launched our ‘Room to Breathe’ program, allowing for the women to give us two-day notice. It’s a way for them to get away for a night; it’s a place for them to stay too,” says Esther.
“With the ‘Room to Breathe’ program, we were able to say that we offered over 50 women free hotel stays [and] they will use them throughout the year,” adds Alicia. “Some want to just get away somewhere close or be near treatment; others want to have an exciting time visiting friends and family in different states.”
Another program that the sisters are launching is a leadership retreat which will be centered around organizations with Black women leaders to address health care disparities.
“The retreat is going to be for Black women who are leading other breast cancer awareness nonprofits and organizations that impact Black women. They’re going to come together so that they can discuss these issues about a collective program or initiative. That way, all of these organizations working toward a similar cause will have a safe space to address these issues,” explains Alicia.
The disparities can be frightening to talk about, but working together to make a change will bring everyone one step closer to eradicating these stark statistics, which is exactly what Fight Through Flights hopes to do.
“It is OK to ask for help. That’s what we’ve realized—that asking for help or support is needed, [as is] knowing your body to advocate for yourself,” says Esther.
“Who wants to hear that you’re in the racial or ethnic group that’s 40 percent more likely to die if you have breast cancer? You don’t want to see that every day if people are telling you to fight. We’re trying to provide these experiences and let warriors know that it’s OK to take a break and rest and enjoy yourself. You need a break, and know that we’re here for you,” says Alicia.
Something else the sisters have realized is that community is key, and they’re glad to be part of such a tight-knit Black cancer community.
“For those who may feel like they don’t know where to go—these resources are out there, these communities are out there. We’re hoping to bring awareness that there are places to find support as they’re going through a time that may not feel OK,” says Esther.
“As much as we get the credit for the amazing things we do, we rely on the Black breast cancer community heavily,”says Alicia. “They’ve been really welcoming. It’s just great to have that community, the support and guidance. You wonder where you can get more awareness, and you really get it from the community living with it.”
For more information, visit fightthroughflights.org.