Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Giving a Lift to a Patient, Body and Soul; American Cancer Society Volunteer Drivers Help Patients on Their Road to Recovery

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Giving a Lift to a Patient, Body and Soul; American Cancer Society Volunteer Drivers Help Patients on Their Road to Recovery

Article excerpt

Byline: HEATHER LOVEJOY

Nearly every Wednesday for two years, Patricia Crane drove Helen Richardson to doctor appointments and chemotherapy treatments for breast cancer.

The arrangement started through the American Cancer Society's Road to Recovery volunteer program, but it was only natural they became friends.

Late last month, though, Richardson took her last ride with Crane. Richardson died Oct. 18 at age 71.

During that ride, she told the Times-Union that Crane and Road to Recovery gave her some peace of mind.

"Knowing I'll have a ride," she said, "that's one less worry."

Road to Recovery is a decades-old program that recruits volunteer drivers to provide cancer patients with free transportation to and from medical appointments. Last year, the program served 444 patients and provided 6,011 rides in a six-county area, according to the program's administrative patient services department.

Crane, 73, is a three-time cancer survivor herself. She has had breast cancer twice. As a survivor, she said, she empathizes with her passengers and tries to put them at ease. Depending on her schedule, she drives patients to appointments several times a week.

"Cancer is a weird disease," Crane said. "People don't want to talk to you because they don't know what to say."

She calls herself "lucky" because treatments never made her too sick to drive. About five years ago, she began volunteering with Road to Recovery to help those who aren't so lucky.

Richardson was too sick to drive and, according to Crane and another friend, lived alone with no family contacts.

On a recent Wednesday, Crane picked Richardson up from her home to take her to chemotherapy at the Orange Park Cancer Center.

The ride started routinely. "You got your seat belt on?" Crane asked. "How have you been all week? You been sick?"

Richardson was quiet that morning, though. She was worried about getting bad news, Crane later said.

On the way to the center, Richardson said Crane helped her through difficult times.

"Pat's become my friend," she said. "She takes me out once in awhile."

She paused, and a few minutes later, added: "It's good to have someone. …

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