June Ward, of McCrae, returns home after being taken to her treatment appointment by the Southern Peninsula Cancer Transport Group.
Things changed when Sister Carmel, from the Order of the Good Shepherd, witnessed a young woman with cancer waiting for a bus in Sorrento more than 30 years ago. The woman was on her way to a chemotherapy session in town with a baby in her arms, and it got Sister Carmel thinking. Fast-forward to today and the Southern Peninsula Cancer Transport Group, a not-for-profit charity, has been transporting cancer patients from the southern Peninsula to their medical appointments throughout the week since. How? Well, volunteers, of course.
Group vice-chairman Ian McBeath explains: “I’ve been driving patients for 17 years and absolutely love it. I was retired and moved from the city to the Peninsula and thought I’d like to do something. All the drivers use their own cars, are reimbursed for their travel and are covered by insurance. The passengers are never asked to pay anything, but some do donate, and we get bigger donations from groups like the Bendigo Bank, Probus and Rotary and other businesses. It is very rewarding. Can you imagine having chemo or radiation and travelling from Flinders or Portsea to Berwick, Casey, Epworth, Frankston, Monash Medical or Peter MacCallum for treatment by public transport and then returning home the same way while feeling sick and exhausted? They shouldn’t be driving for the sake of themselves and for the sake of others either. Many of the patients I’ve driven fall asleep in the car on the way home after their treatment. In 2018, the group travelled over 160,000km transporting cancer patients for their treatment and associated medical appointments. That’s over four return trips to England.”
So this is how the well-oiled Southern Peninsula Cancer Transport Group machine works. Volunteers email their availability to the transport co-ordinators, who then liaise with the hospitals regarding schedules. It’s that simple. The pick-up area is anywhere south of Bungower Rd. Ian’s wife, Carmel, also volunteers with the group.
Ian concludes: “We never realised there was such a need for something like this before we became volunteers, and every passenger is so grateful for the help. The group has about 25 drivers at the moment, but due to COVID-19 we’ve had to make a policy that those over 80 years of age can’t drive. We are all volunteers, including current chairman Mark Killen and our secretary Jan Harris. It’s a vital service. I mean, what a burden lifted for those who are so sick.”
If you’d like to help lift someone else’s burden just a little, go to www.charityguide.com.au/charity/68579670734/southern-peninsula-cancer-transport-group; to use the service, phone 0429 624 375.