Program helps cancer patients get to treatment centersPublished 6:02am Saturday, December 22, 2012
Cancer patients have many problems they have to work through following a diagnosis, but some of the problems aren’t as obvious as some people might think.
Those dealing with cancer worry about their health, their doctors’ bills, their families and so many other apparent things, but something they may not consider is the problem of finding reliable transportation to and from their doctor’s visits and treatments.
For those who have family or friends close by, transportation probably isn’t an issue.
But there are many cancer patients who don’t have family in the area or friends who are willing or able to take them where they need to go, which is where a few gracious volunteers can step in to help.
Knowing how difficult it can be to find reliable transportation from time to time, the American Cancer Society (ACS) established the “Road to Recovery” program, which utilizes a system of volunteer drivers to take these patients to receive the potentially lifesaving cancer treatments they need.
But depending on volunteers means the program relies on compassionate community members who are willing to lend their time and automobile to help someone in need, and right now that number is low in Franklin County.
Russellville resident Jolene Stockton, who is one of the two Road to Recovery volunteers for Franklin County, is no stranger to the ACS or to helping others in need.
Stockton has been involved with the ACS for many years and has freely given her time to support the cause, but she had no idea the Road to Recovery program even existed until she read an article about it four years ago.
“When I saw this article in the paper about the Road to Recovery program and realized Franklin County didn’t have any volunteers from here, I knew I wanted to help,” Stockton said.
“People from Colbert County and Lauderdale County were having to travel down to Franklin County to pick up our people and transport them to their appointments in the Shoals and I thought it was sad that we didn’t have anyone here locally who could transport our own people to get the help they needed.”
Over the past four years, the program gained several more volunteer drivers from the area, but Stockton said due to many different reasons, the number of volunteers currently sits at only two.
“For cancer patients, our drivers are a lifeline,” Stockton said. “It’s a valuable service, but one that requires tremendous volunteer manpower, which means we’re always looking for new people.”
And there is plenty of need for the volunteer drivers, according to Diane Peeples, Health Initiatives Representative for the ACS.
“Just one patient receiving radiation treatment may require 20 to 30 trips for treatment in just a few weeks,” Peeples said. “Road to Recovery reduces the burden felt by many patients and allows them to focus on getting well.”
According to the ACS, there has been a 344 percent increase in demand for Road to Recovery transportation services in the last 20 years and a 46 percent increase in the last 10 years.
“We anticipate demand to continue to grow over the next 20 years,” Peeples said.
“The 60 and older population will increase by 32 percent and the population over 85 will increase by nearly 90 percent.
“Our mobile society means that many families are geographically dispersed and not able to help each other on a daily basis.
‘The movement toward outpatient treatment and away from hospitalization is also contributing to the increased demand for transportation services, and the supply of drivers has not kept up with the tremendous growth and demand.”
Locally, the Road to Recovery program covers the counties of Franklin, Colbert and Lauderdale, so volunteer drivers from Franklin County would transport patients to one of five treatment facilities in either the Shoals area or Florence.
Peeples said anyone who has a driver’s license, a safe driving record, personal automobile insurance, owns a car or has access to one, and can spare as little as one morning or afternoon a month is encouraged to volunteer.
She added that Road to Recovery volunteers can be individual drivers or even local companies who allow employees to provide transportation on company time in company cars. Volunteers may drive as frequently as their schedules permit them to transport patients to and from area treatment centers.
“I really enjoy volunteering for this program because I know how much it helps people,” Stockton said.
“If you are qualified to be part of this program and have any time to spare, I would definitely encourage you to become part of the program, especially here in Franklin County.”
For more information about Road to Recovery or to sign up as a volunteer, contact the American Cancer Society at 1-800-227-2345, locally at 256-767-0825 or visit www.cancer.org.