Cancer program in need of local drivers

MARIETTA – The American Cancer Society’s Road to Recovery program provides a service for cancer patients, but local volunteers who drive them to their treatments and doctor appointments say they benefit as well.

“It’s an honor,” said Williamstown resident Vicki Viers, 53. “They thank us and thank us for what we do, but to me, it’s the least we can do.”

Viers is one of about nine volunteers for the program in Washington County, said Amy Magorien, health initiatives representative for the cancer society in Washington County. Some of those have not been able to participate lately for personal reasons, and the program is looking for more folks willing to help.

“I’d like to have another 10,” Magorien said. “The more we have, the more flexibility we have to help patients.”

Getting to appointments and chemotherapy or radiation treatments can be a significant obstacle for some cancer patients, Magorien said.

“Even if they do have a car, the treatments sometimes just take everything out of a person,” she said.

While she was being trained for the program, Viers said she heard stories of patients going to their treatment by bus or waiting an hour afterward for a cab.

She learned about the program from a friend and thought it would be a good way to volunteer, especially since she’s had several incidences of cancer in her family. That’s also what inspired Reno resident Renee Kraynak to participate.

“It’s very rewarding to know … that you’ve truly helped someone,” said Kraynak, 56.

The only qualifications for a Road to Recovery volunteer are being at least 18 years old, having a valid driver’s license and having proof of insurance for the vehicle that would be used. A background check, paid for by the cancer society, is also required, as is attendance at a training session that lasts about an hour.

Anybody that would be transported is able to walk to and from the vehicle, so no lifting is required, nor is any medical knowledge, Magorien said.

“We give (volunteers) little kits to have on hand in case the person might be tired or nauseous after their treatment,” she said.

Then volunteers simply need to inform the coordinator of when they’re available and how far they are willing to travel. While one volunteer takes people to Columbus and another travels to Cleveland, most of the rides are in the local area, Magorien said.

When a patient contacts the cancer society about needing a ride, the local coordinator is notified and she emails volunteers to see if they’re able to help.

“We’ll try to cover as many of those dates as we can,” Magorien said.

Volunteers don’t have to sign on for regular shifts, she said; even once a month can be helpful.

“A few hours a month can just make a huge difference in a cancer patient’s life,” Magorien said.