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Road to Recovery seeks more drivers

From the moment a person is diagnosed with cancer, consistent medical care is critical. So the last thing patients should have to worry about is how they might get to all those appointments.

Yet, transportation remains a real challenge for far too many cancer patients.

Kristen Hillebrand, senior health initiative representative of the American Cancer Society in Armstrong, Westmoreland and Indiana counties, said the Road to Recovery program was developed beginning in the 1960s to address patients' transportation needs.

She said that transportation can be more of a challenge for patients living in rural areas. Family members often struggle with trying to balance their work schedules with the transportation needs of their loved ones.

And patients may find it difficult to drive when they are sick and going through treatments, said Hillebrand.

That is why Hillebrand wants more people to know about the Road to Recovery program.

"We want to make sure patient care is consistent," said Hillebrand.

She said more volunteer drivers are needed. Armstrong County currently has four volunteer drivers enrolled in the program.

Cari Chavira is the most recent volunteer. She is the oncology nurse navigator at ACMH Hospital's Richard G. Laube Cancer Center.

"I am constantly coming across patients facing transportation issues," said Chavira.

She said that when patients are using pain medication as part of their treatment plan, driving might not be an option. And paying for transportation can get expensive, especially when a patient has to travel as far as Pittsburgh for treatment.

Volunteering is easy, said Chavira. The program can place volunteer drivers even if it is as little as participating once a year, she said.

"The concept is so simple, it's easy to donate time and become a volunteer," she said.

Rene Claypool of Worthington has been a volunteer Road to Recovery coordinator since 2009. She said she learned about the program when she was a Relay for Life team captain in Ford City.

"I thought it was something I could do," she said.

Claypool said she receives requests for drivers through the American Cancer Society and then makes contact with volunteer drivers, asking if they are available.

"It's always nice to have several drivers," said Claypool.

That's because some drivers are able to drop a patient off at an appointment on their way to work, but are unable to pick them up.

Hillebrand said that when volunteers sign up, they are asked where they are willing to drive. Some drivers are able to drive patients to Pittsburgh hospitals, while others feel more comfortable driving locally. She said that some drivers share rides, meeting at the county borders.

"We're able to come up with creative ways to solve transportation issues," said Hillebrand.

Claypool said that being a driver in the Road to Recovery program provides a valuable service and is a wonderful way for people to give of their time.

Additional Information:

To help out

Volunteer drivers must have a valid driver's license, a clean driving record, a safe and reliable car, proof of insurance and be willing to attend a brief training session.

For more information, call 1-800-227-2345 or go to www.cancer.org .

Additional Information:

Upcoming event

What: The American Cancer Society Western Region 24th Annual Cancer Survivors Conference.

This year's theme is 'Laugh 'Til it Heals.'

When: Saturday, March 31, from 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Where: DoubleTree by Hilton, 101 Mall Blvd., Monroeville. For directions, call 412-373-7300 or visit doubletreemonroeville.com .

Cost: Free for cancer survivors, $10 for caregivers, family and friends. The registration fee includes lunch and a giveaway.

Registration : The deadline for the event has been extended to March 30. Forms are available at the Richard G. Laube Cancer Center and online at www.cancer.org/ wrsurvivorsconference . For more information call 412-919-1057.

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