Re-think cancer program

Volunteer drivers are a vital resource for those battling the disease.

The Canadian Cancer Society is ending its Volunteer Driver Program that provides free rides to cancer patients in Metro Vancouver

I’m sure The Leader’s readers are well aware of the amazing facility nestled behind Surrey Memorial Hospital on 138 Street – the B.C. Cancer Agency’s Fraser Valley Centre, where patients receive treatments, kindness, amazing doctors, nurses, technicians and volunteers.

But are your readers aware of the additional stress being inflicted on patients who require help to reach their appointments on time?

There is a group of selfless volunteers under the auspices of the Canadian Cancer Society who drive patients without other resources to and from treatments and appointments at the clinic. The Volunteer Driver Program has been in place for many years but is soon to be “phased-out” by the cancer society. The only reason cited so far is, “It’s not needed with other options in the community.”

I’m a senior and one of the cancer patients who has been accessing the volunteer driver program. My tumour is in my brain and even if I still had a car, I would not be allowed to drive myself. Public transport is not a viable option for me because of some side effects that make me a little unsteady and I walk with a cane. My family lives out of town, and several of my friends have been ill and were not permitted to drive me.

I go to the clinic for radiation (combined with chemotherapy capsules) five days a week, Monday to Friday, and I was so grateful for the volunteer drivers that I made an extra donation to the cancer society this year, designated for the Volunteer Drivers Program. That was two days before I was informed that the service would not be continuing. I felt as if my gratitude was being discounted.

All the drivers are volunteers because cancer has touched their own lives or the life of a close friend or family member and they are donating their time and vehicles.

As for the “other options,” this is what I’ve discovered:

– The Freemasons Cancer Car program only drives to Vancouver, not to Surrey.

– Senior Services Society has a wait list to register and once a senior is registered, the society requires a week’s notice for a drive. As radiation patients only get their following week’s appointments on Thursdays, this would leave me without a driver for Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.

– Driving Miss Daisy is a private (for hire) service.

– TransLink’s HandyDart service can arrive half an hour before the time requested or up to an hour later, which wouldn’t work for radiation treatments that are timed to begin one hour after the chemotherapy treatment has been taken.

I contacted my MLA and her secretary contacted the cancer society on my behalf and asked me to call as well, which I did. Unfortunately, the lovely lady at the other end of the phone call was unable to offer any alternative services to those I’ve already listed.

Cancer is stressful enough without having to worry about getting to treatment. The Canadian Cancer Society should re-think phasing out this very necessary and much-appreciated program. Would a petition be effective?

Annette Martin

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