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Jeff Byers: A Drive for Volunteers on Road to Recovery From Cancer

by on May 23, 2012 7:15 AM

Seemingly out of the clear blue, my family’s life was changing in January 2006. The abbreviated version is that my sister, my only sibling, was diagnosed with a very aggressive form of breast cancer that was already very advanced.

It was a death sentence, for all practical purposes, for a 34-year-old mother of two adopted boys who were ages 4 and 2 at the time. Through determination, perseverance, good luck and remarkable new treatments, I am thrilled to report that my sister is still with us today and doing very well.

She has been receiving treatments, though, almost continuously since the original diagnosis over six years ago. She lives near Cleveland and in order to receive the treatment she needs to continue her battle, she must travel to Columbus once every three weeks.

It is simply part of her routine now. And while it is a significant inconvenience, it is a trip that is literally saving her life and allowing my nephews to grow up with a loving mother. Her road to recovery has been nothing short of miraculous but it has been a long road nonetheless. My sister has been blessed with an amazing network of friends and family that take turns driving her to and from her treatments.

Cancer can hit anyone at any time and while we continue to make tremendous strides in treatments and it is not nearly the death sentence it once was, it is a disruptive force that requires full attention by the patient to the battle. For some, simply getting to the treatment can pose a challenge.

Work schedules, financial hardships, time and distance and many other factors can conspire against a friend or family member being able to take someone to get the necessary treatment. Fortunately, there is a road to recovery and it is paved with good intentions and greater results.

One of the many great programs that the American Cancer Society provides patients is the Road to Recovery. We have several people in our area that need transportation to and from their chemo and radiation treatments. We are in need of more volunteer drivers.

Over the summer, we have several of our drivers that take vacations at various times, and so the need is especially big over the coming months.

I am reminded of Carrie Underwood’s song “Jesus Take The Wheel.” In it, she sings, “Jesus take the wheel, take it from my hands, cause I can’t do this on my own.”

What we are asking for is people who will be willing to help “Jesus take the wheel” and provide the needed helping hand for someone who truly needs it.

If you are retired or have days off that you would like to fill with a worthwhile cause, I would strongly urge you to get involved with our program. Some of our patients need a trip to the Mount Nittany Medical Center or other facilities in Centre County. Others need transportation to Danville, Hershey or sometimes to Pittsburgh and Philadelphia.

If you, or someone you know, could help out with some of your time and the use of your vehicle, you should contact Jenn Schweighauser at the American Cancer Society at 814-234-1023. There will be an orientation session May 31 from 2-4 p.m. at the American Cancer Society office at 123 Sparks St. in State College.

If you can’t make that session but are interested, Jenn will work with you to set up a suitable time to meet and get you started with the program in the very near future.

We are looking for heroes, for people who are willing to sacrifice some of their time to quite possibly help save a neighbor’s life. As with so many volunteer programs, the relationship between those giving their time (and vehicle) and those in need is mutually beneficial. To meet people who are dealing with the toughest experience of their lives (in most cases) can be truly inspiring.

We will work around your schedule and understand that you have other things going on in your life. This is the reason we need more volunteers. To have a large enough pool that we can answer the needs of all the patients that need trips, we have to be able to expand our drivers’ list so that when some of our drivers need to take time off to attend to their families’ needs or other activities, we can rest assured that the patients that need a ride will still receive it.

The requirements to be a driver are pretty minimal and will be covered at the meeting, but basically you need a valid driver’s license, a fairly clean driving record, a reliable vehicle and to be available for some time each month to provide transportation.

I have seen first-hand the difference our drivers make and the importance of these rides can’t be overstated. So, I will end with another plea that if you have some time, a reasonably reliable vehicle and an inclination to help your neighbor when they need it, please contact the American Cancer Society.

This is a tremendous opportunity for Penn Staters and Centre Countians to “Make an Impact” in a big way on the lives of your neighbors.

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Jeff Byers has been the wrestling team’s traveling announcer since 1990.
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