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Volunteers needed in rural areas to give cancer patients rides to treatment

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) -

More baby boomers are being diagnosed with cancer each day, according to the American Cancer Society.

Fronde Merchant, a spokeswoman for the organization, said transportation to treatment is one of the biggest hurdles for a patient's treatment. Sometimes, patients are even forced to cancel chemotherapy and radiation appointments because they simply can't get a ride to them, Merchant said.

To meet that need, a national program, called Road to Recovery, was launched in the Lowcountry. In the last year, the program has acquired around 30 volunteers who offer their time, cars and gas money to drive patients to and from treatment.

However, Merchant said there are many cancer patients living in more rural areas of Dorchester and Berkeley Counties who also need assistance being transported to Charleston for treatment.

One volunteer, Barbara Matzelle, loves it so much, she said it's changed her life. Matzelle, lost her husband to cancer. The retired widow was looking for a way to stay busy and give back.

"I had no idea at all what it was going to be like and it has turned into probably one the best things I've ever done in my whole life," said Matzelle.

The program connects cancer patients with volunteers who can take them to and from treatment.

"Their treatment is usually chemotherapy and then radiation," said Matzelle.

For Matzelle, it's not just about offering a free ride.

"Generally, we don't talk anything about their treatments and they enjoy talking about something else all together, making their life more normal," said Matzelle.

Matzelle also takes extra care to make her passengers as comfortable as possible.

"Don't have it too cold, don't have it too hot, don't wear perfume," said Matzelle. "Anything that might upset them and you know what? They appreciate that a lot."

For Matzelle, offering her time, car and gasoline is priceless.

"They're just wonderful people, to me they're rockstars, the patients are," said Matzelle. "I do it as often as I can."

Right now, there's a high demand for volunteer drivers in more rural areas of Dorchester and Berkeley County. There is no long term commitment.

There is no long term commitment. For more information, you can contact the American Cancer Society at 843-744-1922.

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