By MARILYN McCONAHAY
For Miami Valley Today
TROY — Fighting cancer is difficult enough for patients, but problems are compounded by the inability to find transportation for their treatments. An estimated 67,150 Ohio residents will learn that they have cancer this year; however, getting to their scheduled treatment may be a challenge.
“Getting to and from medical treatments is one of the greatest concerns cancer patients face during treatment. To ensure patients get to those much-needed treatments, the American Cancer Society provides free rides through its Road to Recovery program,” said Marybeth Torsell, program manager for the American Cancer Society.
“I am actively trying to recruit volunteer drivers for the Road to Recovery program in Miami and surrounding counties, so that all patients have transportation when they need it,” Torsell said. “The program remains active currently, but the drivers we have are unable to keep up with the demand and many people are not receiving the lifesaving treatment they need.
“One cancer patient requiring radiation therapy could need anywhere from 20 to 30 trips to treatment in six weeks,” she said.
Frustration mounts as the number of trips needed exceeds the number of drivers available in many areas.
“A patient receiving chemotherapy might report for treatment weekly for up to a year. In many cases, a patient is driven to hospitals or clinics by relatives or friends, but even these patients must occasionally seek alternative transportation. That’s where the Road to Recovery program comes in,” Torsell said.
Michelle Caserta, mobility manager for Champaign, Clark, Darke and Shelby counties, facilitates the problem locally, and when someone can’t get to their treatment, the situation can be intolerable for the patient.
“As a Road to Recovery volunteer coordinator, I see firsthand the trips that are not able to be taken. Even though we currently have several volunteer drivers in Miami County, their availability and range of service territory sometimes doesn’t match up with the patient’s appointments, so trips are left unmet,” she said.
To be a volunteer driver, an interested person must simply have a reliable vehicle, a valid driver’s license, proof of auto insurance, a good driving record and access to a computer, with minimal computer knowledge.
Patients are not the only ones who benefit from this program.
“This program not only helps the patients, but is also rewarding for the volunteer. Several of our drivers have volunteered for a number of years,” added Torsell.
David Luciano, 73, of Tipp City, is that kind of volunteer driver and encourages others to do it.
“I have had cancer, my wife has had cancer and so have my father and my daughter-in-law. I volunteer to do this because I want to help people. I’m retired and I’ve been doing this for two or three years. I didn’t want an every-day, full-time job where I would have to be at every day, so when they call me for a trip, they may say they need one person one day and one another day; sometimes, I say yes and sometimes I say no. It all depends on their schedules and our schedules,” Luciano said.
“The more volunteers they have, the more people are served. We kind of spread it around and it makes it easier for all of us,” he said.
Luciano went on to say he doesn’t particularly care what area he serves, but usually does closer to home, somewhere within Miami County.
“I have done Shelby County and often go to Upper Valley Medical Center. I did take a patient from Urbana to the VA Center in Dayton,” he said.
The program has been available in Miami County for several years, but there are not enough drivers to keep up with the need, said Caserta.
“In 2018, drivers provided 85 rides to treatment, but unfortunately, 96 rides went unmet, leaving patients scrambling to find alternate transportation,” she said.
For information about becoming a volunteer driver, contact Michelle Caserta at (937) 575-7115.
For additional information about the Road to Recovery program or possible upcoming informational meetings, call Marybeth at (888) 227-6446, Ext. 5101 or email email@example.com. More information may be obtained by calling (800) 227-2345 or by visiting cancer.org.