Local News

Volunteer drivers needed to assist cancer patients

Posted February 2, 2010 7:00 p.m. EST

— An American Cancer Society program designed to help cancer patients get to their treatment appointments is desperately seeking volunteers to keep the program moving.

The Road to Recovery program depends on volunteer drivers to take patients who are too ill to drive or have no other means of transportation to radiation and chemotherapy treatments.

"To know that someone will show up and be able to take them to their needed treatments it is a relief for them," volunteer Robert Schechner said. "(It's) one of the most richly rewarding experiences of my life."

Schechner is a colon cancer survivor, so he knows the importance of getting to medical appointments.

"The thought of not getting to a cancer treatment, the alternative is really horrible to imagine," he said.

Cancer Society Executive Director Dan Thorpe said that could soon happen to many area patients. The organization has only 25 drivers to handle more than 1,200 people needing help to get to their appointments this year.

"Our need is at an all-time high," Thorpe said. "What we don't want to see happen is someone chooses to skip a treatment because they don't have a ride."

The bad economy is driving up the need, he said, because people feel they can't leave work too often to drive a family member to an appointment.

"We've heard stories where (patients) are actually asking the chemo nurse to disconnect them so they can catch the last bus for the evening," he said.

People with limited free time can still help, Thorpe said. The system is set up so that, whenever someone needs a ride, the American Cancer Society will call people on the volunteer list. They only enlist someone to drive if the appointment fits into their schedule.

Volunteers need to have a valid driver's license, a reliable car and a good driving record. To volunteer, call the American Cancer Society office in Raleigh at 919-334-5241.