You have heard of the Cash Cab where you can win money by answering trivia questions. But, have you heard of the Cancer Cab?
Volunteer drivers who drive patients to and from appointments are an integral service provided by the Canadian Cancer Society. I call it the “Cancer Cab”. These individuals are a lifeline for the many cancer patients that rely on them: individuals who don’t have a car, who cannot afford to take a cab or who are not able to make it to appointments for a variety of other reasons – not well, can’t drive on the day of the appointment, etc.
I took a cancer cab for the very first time a couple of weeks ago. And that’s when I met Laurette. Laurette has been volunteering with the Canadian Cancer Society for 31 years, and has been a volunteer driver for about 10 years. She is competent and articulate, and has a 100-watt smile. She’s also a great driver. She had checked out the traffic news and knew what roads to take to get me to my appointment on time! Laurette is retired now, and worked previously as an industrial nurse, and as a nurse in an operating room. She decided to volunteer as a driver because she was exposed to a number of people who were battling cancer themselves or in their families.
Generally, Laurette works one day a week. A typical volunteer day for her would be going to a patient’s home at a designated time and taking them to the hospital. She would then wait for the patient to complete their treatment and bring them home. For Laurette, this means waiting at the hospital for 2 or 4 hours. She uses this time to speak to patients, to read, to walk down University Avenue and, one time, even to go to the Royal Ontario Museum to see an exhibit. Laurette is one resourceful lady!
What struck me about Laurette is her compassion and her positive view of volunteering. She sees volunteering as her way to give back to the community. In addition to her weekly driving responsibilities, she also volunteers for events like Daffodil Days, where she will work for a full week delivering daffodils to different sellers for cancer fundraising purposes. Volunteer drivers do not get paid and use their own cars for transportation. However, they are given 30 cents for each kilometre for gas and other out of pocket expenses. So really, they do this not for the money but out of the goodness of their hearts.
Laurette is one of 40 volunteer drivers that service the North York area. There are approximately 140 drivers for Toronto and 380 drivers who support cancer patients in Ontario. Registering to use this service is painless. I called the Canadian Cancer Society and spoke to an individual who took down some basic information from me. Once I was registered, she gave me the phone number of another individual that I would need to call to set up the appointments. The caveat is that you have to book appointments at least 4 days in advance, otherwise you are out of luck. The day before your appointment, you get a call from a volunteer driver confirming times, and then you’re set! Depending on the numbers of people being picked up by a single driver (3 is the maximum), you may need to adjust your timing a bit so that the person with the earliest appointment gets there on time.
If you are interested in volunteering to become a driver in Canada, please go to the Canadian Cancer Society-Ontario Division website here or call 416-488-5400 in Toronto (1-888-939-3333 toll-free) for more information on this and other volunteer opportunities.
Like Laurette, you will become a beacon of hope for people who are at their most vulnerable.