BOSSIER CITY, La. (AP) — Battling cancer gives Bossier City resident Agnes Mercadal enough to think about as she faces two months of radiation treatments.
One extra burden Mercadal, 78, doesn’t need to worry about is how she’s going to get to and from her appointments when she doesn’t have a car.
That’s where Road to Recovery, a program of the American Cancer Society, comes in. Volunteer drivers sign up to drop off and pick up cancer patients who otherwise don’t have transportation to essential medical appointments.
Unfortunately, due to a local shortage of volunteers, some patients have still had to miss appointments because there’s no one available to take them.
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John Storey, area volunteer coordinator, said the local program has about eight regular volunteer drivers. Even just four or five more volunteers would make a huge difference, he said.
“I know when I don’t have a ride for Ms. Agnes, and then all of a sudden I get one, she’s like ‘Praise the Lord, I got the ride,’ because she wants to make the treatment,” he said. “You can have the best cancer treatment in the world, but if you can’t get there. there’s nothing you can do.”
The program is very flexible for volunteers, he said. Storey sends drivers a list each week of needed rides, and volunteers can pick which ones they are able to help based on their own schedules.
“You don’t have to take both sections of the ride,” he said. “If you can only drop off, then somebody else may be able to pick up and bring them home. We don’t push for you to take rides — it’s all up to you.”
The newest volunteer driver is Claire Rice, a Shreveport native who has been bringing Mercadal to her latest appointments.
Rice said she stopped working this past fall and was looking for something to do that would be personally fulfilling and also help others out at the same time.
“The simplest things, like giving a ride, can be a game changer,” Rice said. “It keeps things in perspective.”
While volunteers don’t have to stay and wait during the patient’s appointment, Rice loves to read and said she brings a book with her to the waiting room while she waits for Mercadal.
Rice said she has been inspired by Mercadal’s positive attitude and has enjoyed getting to know her as they drive to and from her appointments.
Many people may not realize that just getting to the doctor can be a problem for some cancer patients, Rice said.
“If they can’t get a ride, they can’t get their treatment,” Rice said. “It’s devastating to think about.”
Mercadal said she is getting through her treatment with good days and bad days, but she said the Road to Recovery program has truly been a gift from God.
“Thank God for good people, and there are some very, very good people,” she said. “When you get into a situation like this, and good people come into your life, that’s a blessing in itself.”
Volunteers go through a short training period and must have a safe and dependable vehicle, a valid driver’s license and car insurance.
Volunteers also must undergo a background check. For more information, visit www.cancer.org/drive or call 1-800-227-2345.