WHEN she was seriously ill, Mariane Foley admits there were some dark days.
Relay for Life is a 24 hour event that brings the whole community together to celebrate the lives of cancer survivors, remembering those lost to the disease and fight back by increasing knowledge of cancer and raising money to fund vital research and services of the Irish Cancer Society, such as the night nurse service and the volunteer driver service.
DAVID O’Connor likes driving, so when he retired, he decided to put it to good use.
“I have been a volunteer driver for the Irish Cancer Service for five years now,” says David, from Midleton.
“I like driving and I like meeting people, so it ticked all the boxes for me. Often, cancer patients going through treatment can’t drive a car, or maybe don’t have use of one. Going to and from the hospital for their chemotherapy or radiotherapy treatments can be stressful for them.
“Having a driver come and pick you up, wait for you and drop you home again, takes the pressure off regular hospital visits. It also gives the person a sense of independence and means less disruption for the family.
“Sometimes, the client could live a mile down a boreen, or have no access to public transport in the area where they live. I am scheduled on the volunteer driver rota to take people for their appointments once a fortnight.
“I arrive promptly and the client is in good time for their appointment. I am their driver for the day.”
David likes interacting with his passengers.
“I automatically say; how are you today?” he says. “I can quickly glean if they want to talk or not. Often after treatment, the patient is tried or lacks energy. Then I know it is better not to have a conversation with them.”
Does David come across the same clients often?
“Yes, I do. It is nice for the client to have familiarity with their driver. And it is great to see their progress as their treatment progresses. “Then, there are those I don’t see again. I never know if they survived or not.”
He did come across a former passenger once when he was off duty.
“I was walking one weekend with my wife on the Tork Mountain in Killarney,” says David. “On one spot, it is quite narrow and people coming down stand aside on the path to let others pass. One woman stood aside for us and she struck a chord with me.
“Later that night, when we got home, I remembered that the woman was a passenger of mine who had breast cancer. I used to drive her to her hospital appointments. She was my first spin. Now, she had come full circle. She was on another journey.”
3,500 patients in Ireland have availed of the volunteer driver service since it began in 2008.
21 hospitals in Ireland currently participate in the programme.
There are 1,200 volunteer drivers country-wide.