Health & Medicine

Program seeks volunteers to drive cancer patients to and from treatments

Ruge DeVan, a coordinator for the Road to Recovery program, provided transportation for cancer patient Peggy Sebastian on Jan. 13 at the American Cancer Society's Hope Lodge in Lexington. The program pairs patients receiving chemotherapy and radiation therapy with volunteer drivers.
Ruge DeVan, a coordinator for the Road to Recovery program, provided transportation for cancer patient Peggy Sebastian on Jan. 13 at the American Cancer Society's Hope Lodge in Lexington. The program pairs patients receiving chemotherapy and radiation therapy with volunteer drivers. HERALD-LEADER

Peggy Sebastian used to be a fast-food restaurant manager with energy to spare.

Not anymore.

Radiation therapy for thyroid cancer left Sebastian's teeth a mass of uneven gray nubs. She lost sight in her left eye after a heart attack, and the sight in her right eye is poor. She has diabetes.

Now she is undergoing hyperbaric oxygen therapy to heal tissue so that five more suspicious spots in her chest can be surgically checked. The treatment is helpful but leaves her exhausted.

"When I get home, I say, 'Naptime,'" said Sebastian, 47.

Ruge DeVan had basal cell carcinoma five years ago and an aneurysm and stroke more than 30 years ago. The retired concrete executive, 70, remembers spending his 36th birthday in the hospital.

"I'm in the process of trying to give back," he said.

He delivers newspapers at Cardinal Hill Hospital in Lexington and is the coordinator for the Road to Recovery program offered by the Lexington branch of the American Cancer Society. Through the program, volunteers provide transportation to and from treatment for people with cancer who do not have a ride or are unable to drive themselves.

DeVan has 10 drivers. He needs 15. Or more.

There have been times when DeVan has had to turn down chemotherapy or radiation therapy patients who come out of their treatments tired, occasionally nauseated and in need of someone to simply provide them a safe ride home.

For patients, this is a big issue. It's often rough to drive home after having chemicals pumped through your body, and family and friends are not always available.

DeVan was given a car-sickness bag for patients when he first began driving, but he has not had to use it.

Before Sebastian found Road to Recovery, she paid $20 for cab fare to get her to and from her treatments. Now, she gets a free service and said DeVan has become a friend interested in her progress, not just the guy who drives a white Taurus.

"I was very nervous, but he just made me feel at ease," Sebastian said. "He told me jokes, made me feel like it was going to be all right."

"I keep climbing that mountain," she said.

Volunteers need to be licensed drivers with safe, reliable cars and proof of automobile insurance. Volunteer drivers must have good driving histories and must be in good health.

DeVan said he volunteered for the shuttle service, offered primarily for Fayette County patients, after seeing an ad on television: "It's giving back. I'm grateful to be alive."

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