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Cancer patients in need of drivers

By Maria-Jose Subiria

msubiria@news-daily.com

Drivers willing to volunteer their time for an important cause are needed by the American Cancer Society, according to the non-profit organization's mission delivery manager.

Lisa Cockerham said motorists are needed to transport cancer patients to, and from, their treatments during the week, in Clayton, Henry and Spalding counties, for the organization's Road to Recovery Program.

She said the demand is high for drivers because so many cancer patients are turned away, due to the lack of volunteers. Currently, there aren't any volunteers for the three counties, and the coordinator of the program is volunteering full-time, assisting nine cancer patients throughout the week, she said.

"There is nothing we [ the American Cancer Society] can really do, if they [patients] don't have a family member that can take them ... Of course, if they don't get to their treatment, it may cause them to get treatment a little bit longer, or if they miss chemotherapy treatments, the patient may die."

Cockerham said volunteers are able to receive benefits by participating in the program. During the tax-return period, they may claim their mileage, though they are solely responsible for keeping a record of it, she said.

Individuals interested must have a good driving record, a valid driver's license, a vehicle in good condition and automobile insurance, she added.

She said volunteers only drive cancer patients to, either their radiation therapy, or chemotherapy treatments. "A lot of patients, when they are in treatment, a lot of times they can't drive themselves," said Cockerham.

According to the American Cancer Society's web site, www.cancer.org, chemotherapy involves the use of powerful medicines and drugs to treat the disease. The side effects of this treatment include anemia, fatigue, hair loss and an increased chance of bruising, bleeding and infection.

The second treatment, radiation therapy, uses high-energy particles, or waves to eliminate or damage cancer cells. The common side effects for radiation therapy include skin changes, diarrhea or trouble eating, according to the web site.

Cockerham said these types of side effects make it difficult for cancer patients to use public transportation.

Volunteers provide the American Cancer Society with the dates, times and distances they can travel, said Cockerham. If needed for a ride, drivers will be advised two days before the official date, she said.

Before hitting the road, volunteers are trained in a four-hour session, which educates them in certain areas, including: how to conduct oneself with a patient, and how to react if a patient gets sick inside the vehicle.

"It doesn't really entail a whole lot ... I mean, if we can just get five people, once a week, that's the whole week right there," said Cockerham, enthusiastically.

For more information, contact the Lisa Cockerham at (770) 632-6936.