Port Townsend woman matches Peninsula cancer patients with volunteer drivers

PORT TOWNSEND — One of the scariest things that can happen, Nina Pascoe knows, is a cancer diagnosis.

And while Pascoe doesn’t work in a cancer clinic or hospital, she seeks to give some comfort to people in the midst of treatment.

Pascoe is the North Olympic Peninsula coordinator of Road to Recovery, the American Cancer Society program that matches patients with the volunteers who drive them to Olympic Medical Cancer Center in Sequim, to the Seattle ferries and even to Seattle itself.

Road to Recovery is 29 years old this year, said Jerri Wood, its coordinator.

From her American Cancer Society office in Everett, Wood matches approximately 50 drivers with patients from Skagit, Snohomish, Island, Whatcom, Clallam and Jefferson counties.

But only about a dozen volunteers, she said, provide rides on the North Olympic Peninsula.

Wood’s office conducts background checks of volunteers, and Pascoe helps connect patients with drivers.

“We’re looking for more,” Pascoe said, meaning more volunteers and more patients in Jefferson and

Clallam counties.

Volunteers can give as little as one morning or afternoon a month.

They can take patients across town, if for example they live in Sequim and need rides to the cancer center on Fifth Avenue.

Volunteers might also give a patient a ride there from Port Townsend, or to the ferry landing or all the way to Seattle for their chemotherapy or radiation treatments.

It’s up to each driver, Pascoe said.

Some don’t want to go to Seattle, but can provide a ride to the ferry, and then another Road to Recovery volunteer can pick up the patient on the other side of the water.

“If the person doesn’t have a partner, or a friend who can drive, they really need help” getting to treatments, Pascoe said.

Training is provided on how to talk with cancer patients in a professional and caring way, she added.

“It is an amazing thing,” said Wood, “to meet these usually elderly patients that are going through this alone.”

The first step toward becoming a Road to Recovery volunteer is phoning Wood at 800-729.5588, option 3, or emailing jerri.wood@cancer.org.

The cancer society has the would-be volunteer’s driving record and any criminal history checked, Pascoe said.

Volunteers don’t receive compensation for their fuel costs.

Which is why Road to Recovery needs a longer list of volunteers, added Wood.

“If everyone on the list gave a ride a month, everyone in their community would be taken care of,” she said, “and the cost would be shared.”

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Features Editor Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5062, or at diane.urbani@peninsuladailynews.com.

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