An estimated 8,090 New Hampshire residents will be diagnosed with cancer this year, according to the American Cancer Society. Some of those people will need help getting to hospitals for cancer treatments like chemotherapy, and the ACS is looking for volunteers to take the wheel.
Patty Cooper, program manager for the ACS’s Road to Recovery, which connects volunteer drivers to patients, says family members help as much as they can, but work and other commitments often make it difficult to help with every hospital visit.
“They can have six weeks of radiation every day,” Cooper said.
And patients often can’t drive themselves because of the side effects of treatment.
“Maybe the first couple of times they go into treatment, they may feel strong enough to [drive themselves]. But cancer treatment is just horrible on the young and the older,” Cooper said.
Cooper says they’re always on the lookout for new volunteers, but during the summertime, the shortage becomes more serious.
“This is a bad time for us, because of the vacations during summer. So we’re really working with maybe three or four volunteer drivers in each county, and they need some assistance,” Cooper said.
If the shortage continues into the fall, Cooper said, she may not be able to provide the help patients need.
“We really don’t want to turn away the cancer patients that come to us for help,” Cooper said.
That said, Cooper is quick to point out that they don’t expect to find drivers to do daily or even weekly trips.
“I’m afraid that volunteers may think it’s going to be a huge commitment,” Cooper said. “Even an hour, two hours a week, two hours a month ... we’ll take anything.”
Drivers donate their time, the use of their vehicles and fuel when driving.
Cooper said she needs drivers in all parts of the state, and since she’s looking for drivers who live in the same area as the patients, the need is greatest in northernmost Coos County because of the low population from which to find volunteers and in the Manchester and Nashua areas because of the high population of cancer patients.
“Even if they can give me two hours a month, that’s one ride that we can count on them for. If we can get 10 or 20 more drivers and they all offer us a day, we’d be all set,” Cooper said.