Words by Red Cross volunteer Naomi Schwimmer
Imagine you are cancer patient needing six weeks of daily radiation. You aren’t well enough to drive back and forth. Your family works. You can’t afford a daily cab. What would you do?
Getting to and from treatment can be a constant struggle for those battling cancer. Many cancer patients require daily radiation and ongoing chemotherapy, but lack the resources to get to their appointments. One ride can make the difference between completing treatment and getting well, versus losing the battle to cancer.
That’s where the American Red Cross steps in. Our Transportation Services Program provides safe, reliable and timely transportation to and from medical and support service appointments for people who have no other means of transportation in Mecklenburg and South Iredell counties. Through a partnership with the American Cancer Society, we provide rides for cancer patients to get to their appointments.
“We are so fortunate to have this relationship with the Red Cross,” said Melissa Wheeler, American Cancer Society patient resource navigator at theBlumenthalCancerCenter. “We have the same goal: to get people well.”
There are countless reasons why finding a ride to appointments can be a real nightmare. For one, many cancer patients are simply not well enough to drive, let alone walk to appointments. Accordingly, many patients are unable to work and find themselves in dire financial straits. Some can’t afford the rising cost of gas for such numerous trips. Many have lost their Medicaid benefits, which previously gave them funding for cab fare. Often, they worry it is a burden on their family and neighbors. Sometimes, cancer patients are relatively new to the area and haven’t yet built up a social network when they are diagnosed.
As if cancer patients need something else to stress about.
While the Cancer Society has its own transportation program, there aren’t always enough volunteers to cover every request. They serve 3,900 patients per year, and not a day goes by without a request for transportation help. When their schedule is full, they give us a call. We do everything we can to help fill in those gaps.
“When we reach out to the Red Cross, they always come through,” said Wheeler. “It has truly been a lifesaver for many patients.”