Written by Holly Blackman
Zach Bolster was living the dream in New York when he received a trajectory-changing phone call – his mother, Gloria, was diagnosed with Stage IV pancreatic cancer. He and his now-wife, Patricia, immediately moved home to Charlotte to care for her. During the hundreds of appointments, treatments — in waiting rooms, lobbies, offices, they saw and heard the stress other patients were under because of transportation – family members unable to miss work to drive them to chemo, or rides falling through and the stress of their bank accounts dwindling to zilch as they fought just to live.
“Transportation?” Zach thought. There has to be an easy solution to ease this burden, and thus, ChemoCars started.
ChemoCars will have a car arrive about 10 minutes within the time a phone call is made and is available 24/7. It is not an app or an automated list of choices – it’s a conversation with a person who will schedule a ride to and from treatment and monitor that ride the whole way, so you know when your ride is outside and waiting.
For some, ChemoCars is their lifeline and for others it is Plan B when a friend or family member can’t make it. But for SHARE Charlotte, ChemoCars is a new partner solving a simple problem and alleviating an added stressor for cancer patients. Just last year, ChemoCars provided over 200,000 rides.
How can you help ChemoCars continue to get those in need of a lift get to the care they need? ChemoCars has a Sponsor a Ride campaign where 100% of your money goes towards paying for a patient’s ride, which on average in 2017 was $12. Want to donate time instead of funds? You can help to staff calls or monitor the Uber/Lyft riders via an app. ChemoCars needs your help making sure all patients referred by Cancer Nurse Navigators at Levine Cancer Institute or other treatment facilities arrive on time at chemo or radiation treatments, appointments, etc.
Cancer is expensive. Chemo appointments are costly and frequent, and as much as we all love our families and friends, asking someone to drive you to an appointment every week adds up and just isn’t feasible if you can’t miss work or have children and responsibilities. Uber’s are a possibility, but a two-way Uber cost seems extravagant when you’re accruing tens of thousands of dollars in debt.
After Chemo, someone is often too sick to drive themselves, plus, it’s not recommended nor best practice. “If you’re like my mom, she started feeling so bad, it wasn’t safe to drive,” Zach told me.
Someone else who knows this truth all too well is founder of local nonprofit Angel in Disguise, Angela Baker. Angel in Disguise started because Angela herself faced this same difficulty. She is a two-time cancer survivor, and we’ll leave it at that, because Angela is not about promoting herself, but rather about supporting others by providing rides.
One day, Angela she started offering to drive people to appointments. After her multiple battles with cancer, Angela started giving rides to people in her own truck and driving them, counseling if they ask, advocating if they need and being present always because we all need someone to be present. Her relationship with Novant ensures referrals and she’s on the road.
As both Zach and Angela know, being a cancer patient is expensive. Cancer patients are twice as likely to file for bankruptcy, according to research. Zach’s mom, Gloria, passed away only 5 weeks after her initial diagnosis and this tragedy has made Zach realize the big picture. Likewise, as Angela battles cancer herself, she has become increasingly aware of the big difference a free ride and a little companionship can make.
If you’d like to donate in memorial of/in honor of a friend or family member with cancer, check out ChemoCars or Angel in Disguise – both are making life a bit less complicated and taking away a small burden for those suffering in a big way.
For more information on ChemoCars, visit the official website here.
For more information on Angel in Disguise, visit the official website here.