YOUR CONTRIBUTION AT WORK: PROVIDING RIDES TO CANCER TREATMENT
Cheryl and Darcy Scherle of Regina became volunteer drivers with the Canadian Cancer Society after a couple of family members, including Darcy’s sister, had gone through cancer treatment.
Two to three days a month, Cheryl, a retired teacher, and Darcy, a retired pharmacist, help cancer patients get to and from their treatment and treatment-related appointments.
“You’re helping make life a little easier for them,” Darcy says. “You’re being a positive, helpful person, taking care of one small part of their day they don’t have to worry about.”
Getting to treatment and treatment-related appointments can be a challenge for cancer patients if they are too tired to drive because of treatment, stress about finding a parking spot, need help getting in and out of a vehicle, have no one to drive them, or face financial limitations.
Volunteers like Cheryl and Darcy make it possible for cancer patients to focus on getting better and fighting cancer instead of worrying about how they will make it to the next appointment.
They also help take some of the strain off family members, who do not have to take time off work to drive loved ones to their appointments.
Cheryl and Darcy have been giving rides to cancer patients since June 2008.
“Our priority always is to get the patient to the appointment on time"
Unlike other volunteer drivers, who drive alone, Cheryl and Darcy drive together. They are a team.
An extra pair of eyes when they are picking up a cancer patient in an unfamiliar neighbourhood, for example.
When they are picking someone up in downtown Regina, one can stay with the vehicle while the other gets the patient.
When they receive a call from the volunteer driver coordinator while on duty about a change with a patient’s appointment, one answers the telephone and writes down the new information while the other drives.
Cheryl and Darcy take separate vehicles at times.
“It’s easier for the patients and easier for us,” Cheryl says about those occasions. “Our priority always is to get the patient to the appointment on time, and to get the patient home when we can, at a reasonable time.”
On a typical day, Cheryl and Darcy are giving lifts to 12 to 14 patients. On a slow day, they are helping 6 to 8 patients. Their busiest day? Eighteen patients.
Trying to brighten cancer patient's day
“You try to make their day brighter at a time they need a friendly face,” Cheryl says about what she and Darcy aim to do for each patient.
One way the Scherles achieve this is by letting people choose the topics of conversation that take place during the ride (if they want to talk, that is). Most of the time people talk about something other than cancer.
The Scherles do not give advice, but they will let a patient know when they have heard other patients saying something similar, thereby affirming what the patient is feeling or thinking.
Patients are thankful for the rides and show their gratitude in different ways, including with cookies. The Scherles refuse offers of money and direct patients to make a donation to the Society.
Cheryl and Darcy find it rewarding to assist people battling cancer.
“There’s instant gratification,” Darcy says. “You can see right away that you’re helping a person.”
Cheryl adds: “You remove a burden. You can take one brick out of the load and that makes you feel good.”
About the volunteer driver program
The volunteer driver program operates in Regina and Saskatoon.
In 2011, 12 Society volunteers provided rides to 239 cancer patients (3978 trips) in Regina. Fifteen Society volunteers provided rides to 275 cancer patients (5761 trips) in Saskatoon.
The drivers' routes include the bus depots in both cities, to pick up and drop off cancer patients travelling from other communities to Regina and Saskatoon for their appointments.