The American Cancer Society’s Road to Recovery program was the most incredibly helpful service for us.
John thought he would be able to drive himself to his daily radiation treatments. And, for the first week, he could.
We live 40 miles from the cancer center that housed the recommended specialized radiation therapy machine. The machine had only been in use for two weeks, and John’s treatments were long– sometimes he spent as long as 50 minutes on the table, strapped down in his mask, while they precisely calibrated the machine to focus on the tiny lesion on the back of his tongue.
At the end of his first week of radiation John had his first chemotherapy infusion, done overnight in the hospital in order to keep him hydrated to protect his kidneys. He sailed through it, but the next day when he got home very strange things began to happen. I won’t go into the details here because first, I don’t want to scare anyone and second, the visual side effects John encountered happen in less than 1% of people getting Cisplatin. Driving was out of the question for him, and I was working full time covering the practice for both of us.
We had plenty of friends who were ready to help John with rides, but none of them lived in our town. This meant someone would have to drive up the hill from Chico, pick John up, drive him the 40 miles back to the Cancer Center in Chico, bring him back home, and then drive back to Chico. It was just too much to ask people to do every week day for six weeks.
On top of this, John was the first person to receive a new radiation protocol. On Thursdays he was getting two radiation treatments, 7 hours apart. This meant two trips to Chico on Thursdays.
This is where the incredible Road to Recovery program kicked in for us.
The American Cancer Society matches up volunteer drivers with cancer patients who need rides to their treatments. The volunteer picks up the patient in their own car. I really doubted they would be able to find drivers for us who would be willing to take up to two hours to take John to Chico, wait while he had his 30-50 minute session, and drive him back.
But they did.
First, they needed a week’s notice to coordinate volunteers.
Second, the patient must be ambulatory, meaning they must be able to get in and out of a car by themselves.
Third, they can’t drive patients later than 5:30 pm, during American Cancer Society hours. So I did call on friends to drive John to and from his Thursday evening treatments.
I gave them John’s schedule, and a few days later they sent me a calendar print out with the names of John’s volunteer drivers filled in. They weren’t able to fill in every single day, but they did fill in as often as four days a week some weeks. This made it much easier for me to ask friends to fill in the remaining trips.
John’s volunteer driver called him the night before to get directions and to confirm what time they should pick him up. Each of his drivers refused any compensation for gasoline and were beyond happy to be able to provide this service.
I kept a whiteboard in the kitchen with the names and numbers of friends and volunteers, and every day I would write in big red letters, YOUR DRIVER TODAY IS _____.
When our lives get more back to normal I’ll be signing on as a volunteer for this incredible service. It will feel great to give back!
BUT WAIT– THERE’S MORE!!
In addition to the Road to Recovery service, the American Cancer Society also helps with your own gasoline expenses. All you have to do is keep a mileage log of all medical-related trips, and the Cancer Society reimburses you so many cents per mile in the form of a debit card, for use only at gas stations. Because all of John’s doctors and providers were at least 40 miles away, and because he needed physical therapy after he healed up from his treatments (by now he was able to drive himself again), and because gas was over $4.00 a gallon, these gasoline debit cards were extremely helpful.