High gas prices affect cancer patients

July 28, 2008 5:08:15 PM PDT
There's been a lot of talk about pain at the pump as gas prices climb. But for some people, those high prices are contributing to real physical pain.

Some cancer patients depend on volunteers to drive them to their radiation and chemotherapy treatments.

For most people, a visit to the doctor is a matter of hopping in your car and off you go.

But for Stephen Conley of San Francisco, who has no car, little money and receives treatments for lung cancer five days a week, it often means hoping for a volunteer driver.

"It's becoming very difficult to find resources to find transportation," said Conley.

But many volunteers at the American Cancer Society's 'Road to Recovery Program,' like Laverne Malone, are also feeling the pain at the pump.

When there is a fixed income, every dollar counts.

So recently, when Malone was asked to drive from her home in Oakland to Castro Valley to take a patient to Berkeley , back to Castro Valley and then drive home again, she said.

"I can't do it. I told her I'm sorry. At the price of gas I can't drive that far," said Malone. "I told her I'd do alameda Oakland and Berkeley for right now and if gas prices drop I'd be willing to do more."

Turning down the request was something Malone, a cancer survivor herself, did not do lightly.

But it's something Andrew Cobb is hearing more of these days. He's the director of the Cancer Society's Stephanie Lane Cancer Resource Network in Oakland.

"A lot of volunteers are saying we can't drive as frequently or as far and some volunteers have had to retire from the program. Now we do provide some assistance to our drivers but that is limited," said Cobb.

Now Steven isn't above taking public transportation to chemo and radiation at UCSF and the VA Hospital, but those treatments are draining.

"Certainly you are more vulnerable if you're using public transportation because your resistance is lower than a normal person so you're susceptible to colds or whatever people are having or carrying in that kind of environment," said Conley.

So the American Cancer Society is looking for drivers to transport patients who are living in a world of the unknown.

"Not just the fear of what's going to happen, but side effects, what about family issues... Having a caring person in that car is a better service than just a cab ride," said Cobb.

ABC7 News asked Stephen how he's going to make it to three more months of almost daily cancer treatments if there aren't enough volunteer drivers.

"It's very difficult. I don't really know how to answer that question honestly. It's just something I'll learn as I go along and try to figure it out," said Conley.


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