A volunteer service that transports cancer patients to and from treatment is hoping to expand to help fill a “dramatically” growing niche in the local community.
Cancer DriveLine Society is a free Victoria-based service that provides rides to patients around southern Vancouver Island, who are going through tests and screening for cancer, undergoing treatment or surgery, or for post-cancer procedures.
As part of the service, drivers pick up patients from their home, transport them to their appointment at the B.C. Cancer Agency, local hospitals or to specialists and drive them home after.
The service was originally offered through the Canadian Cancer Society, who decided to axe the program in the fall due to declining ridership and volunteer availability, and an increase in alternate transportation programming. However, in October many drivers and dispatchers, who were with the Canadian Cancer Society, made the jump to the volunteer program to continue the service to patients.
“I know a lot of people who have had cancer. I’ve had members of my family die of cancer. Most of us know somebody that has cancer or died of cancer,” said society president Simon Harvey, adding many of their volunteers are cancer survivors as well. “I think it’s fulfilled a need that was hidden before. People were struggling to pay for taxis, they were using the buses and some of them were even missing treatments.”
The society has helped transport more than 300 people and 75 drivers have made more than 2,100 trips, exceeding 60,000 kilometres. Drivers are reimbursed for mileage, however, Harvey said many of them simply return that money back to the society.
Tony Quinton is a volunteer driver with the society and drives patients around three to four times a week in his Mustang convertible. He enjoys conversations with different people, some who open up and share their life stories.
“That’s part of the service. They enjoy having someone they can talk to. It’s part of the therapy,” Quinton said. “It gives me a reason to get out of bed in the morning.”
Over the past few months, the society has seen an increase in the number of patients requesting rides, most of whom are elderly, live alone or have partners that don’t drive. During the past week, they had to turn away a few patients because they were fully booked.
“Cancer is a disease that seems to be growing like wildfire . . . The society has been growing dramatically to the point now where we are so busy that we desperately need more drivers,” Harvey said, adding they’re twice as busy now than they were with the cancer society.
The Cancer DriveLine Society office is open from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday to Friday. For more information or to volunteer visit cancerdriveline.ca.