By Nikki Ross Inda - April 23, 2019
As a former pilot, Al Wilson enjoyed an abundant life flying 737s, corporate jets and single engine aircrafts. He was the proud owner of a lucrative cleaning business with more than 150 employees. But life took a nose dive in 2015 when he fell ill with walking phenomena and was slow to recover. X-rays revealed several abnormalities including blood in his lungs. After further testing, Al was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer.
The news was impossible to hear. Al was given six months to live. Though he was a former smoker, he had quit more than 30 years ago. Nevertheless, he was determined to fight for his life. Al was referred to Moffitt Cancer Center, where he was placed on a clinical trial. He was extremely fortunate to not experience any side effects while taking part in the study.
Four years later, Al remains steadfast in his fight. In an effort to give back to his community, he goes to bed every night at 7 p.m. in order to wake up early for his new job as a school bus driver in Manatee County. He is dedicated to making sure his students get to school on time.
On April 20, in front of a packed house at Tropicana Field, the Tampa Bay Rays honored Al through the Salute to Survivors program. His eyes lit up as he walked onto the field for pre-game batting practice. He proudly sported his Durham Bulls ball cap, paying homage to the Rays minor league affiliate which proved to be a huge conversation starter. Al met Rays catcher Nick Ciuffo and former MLB player turned broadcaster Orestes Destrade.
Al knows the cure for lung cancer is within reach. He credits Moffitt, his wife Debra and his special friends for helping save his life.