Sunday, September 23, 2018

A new gig and learning how to listen to people stories

New Gig

During my travels across the wonderful sights and sounds of every gosh-darned diagnostic and/or cancer center in the city I confess to eavesdropping on waiting room conversations. What can I say, people talk loudly and sometimes even I, the master of self entertainment, get bored. So while I work out my Sudoku and read the latest zen wisdom on my phone Kindle, I can't help but hear words from the vast variety of fellow cancer survivors.
Salient among such conversations was the difficulty that traveling to cancer appointments pose for some. Being completely functional and able bodied, I neglected to think about such things about my companions in this journey.
Some don't have family or friends to take them, many appointments require a driver due to immediate side effects, some patients no longer drive or never did, some have lost their ability to drive, no car, no eyesight, not good enough health, no gas money, no Uber money, not able to get on public transport, no English, no way to get around, no way to get to treatment, think how awful that would be.
Out here in the West, a horse has always been and still is indispensable. Big cities, especially in the Eastern US, have endless forms of transport. Not out'ere! Vast distances to cover, even in a modern Western city. Our much improved bus system still requires plenty of walking to bus stops and we have one (1) public bus system. Many appointments are recurring, some daily, most at least weekly.

So I thought I would help and starting about four weeks ago, I got a new gig driving cancer patients to their appointments. Turns out the American Cancer Society has a volunteer program called Road To Recovery that accepts (eagerly!) volunteer drivers and matches them with the urgent need of patients to make sure people with cancer can at least get to their treatments. ACS also partners with Lyft but most of the people I drive say their Lyft benefits dry up on the first week of treatment.
No no no, not like this...

People Stories

Like THIS! My faithful steed, now official
ACS Road to Recovery
transport for those who can't 
So after a grueling background check and many applications to get more applications, a bit of self-learning online, I am now officially an ACS volunteer driver. I drive once or twice per week and always in wonder about how many more rides are there to give than volunteers to give them.
Another learning experience for me since I usually keep to myself and wondered how I would handle listening to people talk about their experience with cancer. I've never been one to enrich dry facts with people stories and most of the time I just want a good dose of succinct reality, dry and cold. A hard life will do that to you.
Turns out, I'm a pretty good listener! And also surprising, I really enjoy hearing the amazing stories of my patient's experiences.

Near everyone I meet has a different cancer story, near everyone is at least a little freaked out. Many are simply unable to drive, arthritic, poor eyesight, no car, retired, no family, no money. I knocked on a door once to find a boarded up apartment and my patient having been kicked out the previous day...no address to be picked up from!
Most are truly needy, much more so than I thought they would be. Many have daily appointments across town. Some are in the diagnostic stage, some have quit their jobs to get better and have no income now or in the near future. Some don't understand this thing that is happening to them, some in denial, most vow to fight, some vow to challenge their doctors, near all question the justice of this blow they've been given.

I'm very happy I get to help. My own battle is completely in auto-pilot, pills daily, blood weekly, tumor markers steady, next PET scan not for two months on my one year anniversary...and all that is a very good thing.


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