PACE — Lynne Cranford estimates that approximately 720 Santa Rosa County residents will be diagnosed with cancer this year.
To make matters worse, some of those patients do not have transportation.
"Even the best treatment can't work if a cancer patient can't get there," said Cranford, program manager for the American Cancer Society.
Cranford is also the Panhandle manager for Road To Recovery, a national transportation service for cancer patients. She is trying to recruit adult volunteers who can use their personal vehicles to drive cancer patients to and from doctor visits and medical procedures.
The American Cancer Society screens and trains all volunteer drivers and coordinates rides for patients. Volunteer drivers choose their workload and must have:
A valid drivers license
A good driving record
Access to a safe and reliable vehicle
Access to a desktop, laptop or tablet computer
Proof of car insurance.
Most volunteers find the experience rewarding.
"It's very uplifting," said Mark Schmitt, a volunteer drivers for the past 12 years. "You get much more out of it than you put into it."
The first step in the training process is to complete a background check. Then applicant drivers are given a self-paced training course that can be completed online. Once training is complete, drivers post their availability.
"The one-on-one time spent with the patient is very rewarding," Schmitt said.
He credits his volunteer service for making him a better listener. Schmitt has developed relationships with some of his regulars to the point that he can tell how they are feeling just by looking at them. He can tell if they are in a mood to talk or if they want to sit quietly while he drives.
Rita King is one of Schmitt's regular riders. The 71-year-old was diagnosed with liver cancer in 2007. She went through chemotherapy and went into remission. Unfortunately, the cancer returned and she is undergoing chemotherapy again.
"The American Cancer Society is a very good organization," King said. "They care. We talk to each other real good. I give them 100 percent."
King said she likes the one-stop shopping service the American Cancer Society provides. Cranford said the American Cancer Society will either try to provide the service or direct the patient to the right organization that can help.
"The people in ACS are beautiful," King said. "If I didn't have them, I don't know what I would do."
"We need more volunteer drivers," Cranford said.
For more information on patient eligibility or becoming volunteer driver, visit www.cancer.org or call 800-227-2345.