Going the extra mile

Volunteer drivers give much-needed rides to cancer patients

it weren’t for volunteer drivers such as Grant Tschanz

it weren’t for volunteer drivers such as Grant Tschanz

Still reeling from the shock and horror of being diagnosed with cancer last fall, Susan Doyle’s eyes fill with tears at the memory.

But when she looks over at Grant Tschanz, she dabs at her eyes with a tissue and a small smile reappears.

“They’ve done so much for me,” she says of volunteer drivers with the Canadian Cancer Society who regularly pick her up at her Sidney home and bring her to chemotherapy treatments at the B.C. Cancer Agency’s Vancouver Island Centre – the only place on the Island to offer chemotherapy.

Without volunteers to take her to the centre near Royal Jubilee Hospital in Victoria, Doyle doesn’t know how she would get to her three-hour appointments.

Rather than having to figure that out as well as making her way home afterward feeling sick, she picks up the phone and calls the Canadian Cancer Society and the worry fades. A volunteer dispatcher on the other end of the line will match her and a driver.

“Devastation,” says Tschanz of what patients would face if the program didn’t exist.

He may be a driver but he feels a certain affinity with those he gives a ride to each week. After all, he has cancer too. 

And while able to drive, Tschanz understands the emotional, mental and physical toll of cancer.

The Gordon Head resident says his experience in the program has benefited him as much as the patients. He also shuttles out-of-town patients staying at the Canadian Cancer Society Lodge to their treatments at the Vancouver Island Centre.

“Instead of me trying to lift their spirits, they’re raising mine,” he smiles.

The driver program has been operating across the Island for the past 18 years, but with more people than ever in need of cancer treatments, the demand for more drivers is pressing, says Valerie Lykkemark, volunteer driver co-ordinator.

“We could easily take 20 and put them into action right away,” she notes.

To volunteer, please call the Canadian Cancer Society at 250-414-4253. To book a driver, please call 250-414-4250.