It’s a simple car ride, but every trip makes a difference. The passenger is someone fighting cancer. The driver is a stranger who just wants to help. It’s part of a program known as the Road to Recovery. At the moment, there are plenty of patients, but what they really could use are more drivers.
When 62-year-old Linda White was diagnosed with ovarian cancer last August, her life was turned upside down. She has no family here, and her daughter was in college in Columbia. She was scared and confused, not only of the diagnosis but of the treatment.
There was no way she could afford taxi or bus rides from her home in Mount Pleasant to her treatments in West Ashley. It wasn’t her nature to ask for help from her neighbors. She didn’t want to bother anybody. What would she do? How would she get there?
Some folks at the American Cancer Society started answering all of those questions. They would arrange that transportation at no charge. It was their Road to Recovery program.
At the moment, there are only 11 volunteers who have committed their time and their cars. These volunteers must clear a background check, have a good driving record, own a car and carry insurance. There also is no reimbursement for gas. They carry cancer patients to their treatment sessions and take them home when they’re finished. Last year, 100 patients in the tri-county area needed this assistance. To receive help, the patient must only be able to come to the car.
Driven by kindness
White admits that she might lapse into a “chemo fog” after some of her treatments. But it was knowing that someone would be there to take her home that made her feel safe and gave her one less thing to worry about.
Chris Schiable, 69, a retired book keeper from Ohio, is one of the volunteer drivers. She initially did it just “to do something.” Now, she admits that it gives her a good feeling. She says it’s rewarding, even though it’s just a car ride.
Dean Fitzgerald, 66, is one of the other volunteers. He knows he’s not there to offer advice, just a kind ear. Why does he help? His father died of cancer and his brother is a cancer survivor.
White admits to dealing with anger in the beginning. Fitzgerald often was her driver. She couldn’t believe how patient and responsive he was. It’s one thing to ask family members, but a total stranger? White admits that on some rides home, she probably filled Fitzgerald’s ears with more than he bargained for with conversation on hair loss and why this was happening.
Going the extra mile
Volunteers receive a training session that takes about an hour. Beyond the volunteer’s time and car, they’d like a commitment that you’ll take two assignments a month. Ideally, the cancer society would like 25-30 such people in the system.
Some patients have half-hour treatments, while others might stay more than five hours. The driver is not required to stay that whole time. He or she can run errands, even go home and wait for a call indicating the patient is finished. If you’d like to volunteer, the number to call is 744-1922.
Life is a highway. Who knows what’s ahead around the next bend or at the end of this nearing exit ramp. A simple car ride can make a big difference if you’re on the road to recovery. Maybe even more so when the driver is a total stranger who is willing to listen.
Reach Warren Peper at 937- 5577 or at wpeper@postand courier.com