Tyndall Airman conquers cancer

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Sergio A. Gamboa
  • 325th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

Being resilient is something the Air Force strives for in every Airman, but when true resiliency is needed, some Airmen find it within themselves.

Senior Airman George Lintala, 325th Logistic Readiness Squadron materiel management journeyman, was born and raised in Spain and joined the Air Force in July 2011.

"I have a lot of family in the military," Lintala said. "I always wanted to join the military, but I decided to go to college first and take classes after high school. After getting feedback from a few family members that are in the military, I decided to join the Air Force and not follow in my father's footsteps by joining the Navy."

Lintala was assigned to Dyess Air Force Base, Texas before deploying to the Middle East, where he started seeing marks on his body three weeks after his arrival.

"I started noticing bruises all over my body, which was unusual," he said. "I went to the medical group to get checked, and when I got my blood drawn, medical personnel saw that I barely had any platelets left in my blood. They couldn't figure out what was wrong with me."

After 12 hours in the hospital, a plane was called to take Lintala to a hospital in Germany to have more testing. When doctors found out what was wrong with him, they told him the prognosis.

According to the cancer center website, approximately 27,000 adults are diagnosed with leukemia every year in the United States.

"They told me I had leukemia," he said with a look of distraught on his face. "I was really scared. I didn't really know what it was. All I knew is that it was a type of cancer, so I knew it was pretty bad. I had to call my family and let them know what was going on."

After hearing the news, his mother was in tears but supportive.

"My family called and messaged me almost every day," Lintala said. "They were telling me not to worry and that everything would be okay. They gave me the confidence I needed to get through everything, and they made me stronger."

After several tests, doctors determined the type of leukemia.

"At first they thought I had leukemia that was hard to treat," he added. "After about four days they found out it was one easily curable. They then decided what type of chemotherapy I would then go through."

He began therapy within a week of being diagnosed.

"When I first started chemotherapy I felt fine," Lintala said. "After a while I started getting really sick and started losing my appetite, my hair, weight and strength. Basically, I was lying in bed all day. It got to the point where I couldn't even drink water because it hurt badly."

The Air Force flew his mother and aunt in for support.

"The Air Force took care of me and my family pretty well," he said. "Everything was provided for them. I would have Airmen visit me every day to provide support in every way they could. Since it was around Christmas time, they would bring movies and gifts."

After a month in Germany, Lintala was cleared to go to Maryland where his family resides.

"Once I arrived, I still had to go through a lighter treatment for another three months," he said. "It wasn't as bad as the first time. Everything I knew about chemotherapy was from watching TV and movies. I never really knew what it really was until I had to go through it. I don't think someone can get ready for something like that. People know it makes you sick, but they don't understand how sick you get. I learned it was a lot worse then what I thought it was like."

June will mark a year that Lintala has been in remission. He has advice for anybody going through something similar.

"Believe you have the strength and power to overcome any illness you have," Lintala said. "Things will get better; you have the Air Force to help you out. They helped me out with more than I ever expected and they will treat you and show you that you belong in their family."