Program offers transportation to cancer patients

  • By IAN FOLEY
  • Thursday, December 11, 2014 10:25pm
  • News

Cancer patients lacking means of transportation in communities around the Kenai Peninsula will soon be able to attend their treatments more easily, thanks to the American Cancer Society’s Road to Recovery program.

The Road to Recovery program allows volunteer drivers to take patients to and from treatments when necessary.

The American Cancer Society has been organizing rides for cancer patients in various parts the contiguous United States since the 1960s, but it wasn’t until 1981 that the program was officially named Road to Recovery.

The program has been in Alaska for more than a decade in places such as Anchorage and Fairbanks, but the increase in cancer treatment centers on the Kenai Peninsula has led to more demand for the Road to Recovery Program in areas like Soldotna, Nikiski and Kenai, said Kathy Archey, a Mission Delivery Specialist for the American Cancer Society.

Archey, who serves as the coordinator of the program in Alaska, said that it’s disheartening to see patients without rides. She hopes that with the help of volunteers, the problem will be alleviated.

She said she needs at least three volunteers before the program can function properly on the peninsula, which she hopes to have in the coming days or weeks, but she would like more.

Currently, the Road to Recovery program has nearly 40 active volunteers throughout Alaska who drive patients to and from cancer treatment centers, Archey said.

Before volunteers can participate in the program, they must first have a reliable car, valid driver’s license, car insurance and a good driving record. Volunteers must also participate in an online training course pertaining to the program.

After all the steps are completed, they communicate with the community’s driver coordinator who will help facilitate the organization of patient’s rides. Archey said that the volunteers have been a pleasure to work with.

“It’s a very rewarding job,” she said. “Everyone is so compassionate.”

The program will allow patients to reach treatment centers in Soldotna, such as Peninsula Radiation Oncology Center, Katmai Oncology, Cottonwood Health Center and Peninsula Internal Medicine. According to the American Cancer Society and Archey, there are no strict rules about how far people can drive, but volunteers are not expected to drive more than 45 miles one way.

“We are so grateful for (for the Road to Recovery program),” said Jennifer Bostelman, the Front Office Coordinator Peninsula Radiation Oncology Center. “We have so many patients who travel back and forth (from all over the peninsula) to here to get to their treatments every day, Monday through Friday. Sometimes they are alone and they don’t have anyone to bring them back and forth.”

Bostelman said that people in the community are eager to help any way they can.

“Everybody just wants to help, they just need to know what they need to do in order to do it, because everyone has someone in their family or even themselves that have had cancer,” Bostelman said.

“They understand that there are people out there who don’t have anyone and they want to help. We’re all in this together.”

Teresa Kiffmeyer, a volunteer for the program on the Kenai Peninsula, said that when her family members went through the treatment process years ago, they weren’t aware of programs that could assist them. She said that she hopes to spread word of the Road to Recovery program, because she understands that going through the treatment process alone is difficult and stressful.

According to statistics provided by the American Cancer Society, 107 patients from the Kenai Peninsula have been aided by various American Cancer Society programs though September of this year. With the implementation of the Road to Recovery program and other programs, American Cancer Society anticipates that the number will jump to over 140 by the end of 2014.

In 2013, 420 rides were provided to 26 patients and caregivers in the Anchorage and Fairbanks areas, according to American Cancer Society statistics.

Aside from Road to Recovery, the American Cancer Society has a number of other programs to assist people with cancer, including Look Good Feel Better, Relay for Life and Reach for Recovery.

To volunteer for the Road to Recovery or other American Cancer Society programs, contact Kathy Archey at 907-273-2077.

 

Reach Ian Foley at ian.foley@peninsulaclarion.com.

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