Canadian Cancer Society looking to bring Wheels of Hope program to Prince Albert

The local branch of the Canadian Cancer Society is hoping to expand a successful program that helps get patients to their appointments in Saskatoon.

The Wheels of Hope program runs in both Regina and Saskatoon to help connect patients with their appointments. The hope is to sign up enough volunteer drivers to expand it to Prince Albert.

“It will help get people from Prince Albert and area to their cancer treatments at the Saskatoon Cancer Centre,” said Canadian Cancer Society Prince Albert development officer Charlene Bernard.

“It was used quite often when we had STC. What people would do is they’d take a medical pass and take the bus to Saskatoon and then our driver program would pick them up at the bus depot and take them to their appointments.”

The service would also return them to the bus depot for them to return home. With the loss of STC, it’s been harder for some patients to access care.

“Over the years I would always get calls for people looking for assistance to get to their treatments,” Bernard said.

“It does get costly, especially if you’re going every day for radiation treatment. Some people can’t drive or don’t have family or friends that can drive them every day.”

Radiation is only offered in Saskatoon, Bernard said. Chemotherapy can be done in Prince Albert.

“There is a great lodge (for cancer patients) in Saskatoon, but not everybody can take advantage of that,” Bernard said.

“Going back and forth is a financial hardship. It’s also a physical hardship, and not everyone has supports … who can take them every day.”

Travelling together with other patients can have other benefits too, Bernard said. “There were a lot of people who did use (the ride service and the bus).

“Not only was it cost-effective — because we know there are enough burdens on people when they’re going through treatments — there’d be little support communities on the bus. Usually, a few people would go together and then they’d develop friendships and a little bit of support there. There were always people using it.”

The service will be offered for a small administrative fee.

The rest would be covered by donations.

The hope is to have it up and running soon.

“It is volunteer dependent,” Bernard said.

“We need to get our volunteer drivers in place. We are looking for people that would drive maybe one day a week to Saskatoon to drive people to their appointment at the Cancer Clinic.”

While the ideal volunteer would be available to drive one day per week, Bernard said there is some flexibility.

She added that the hope is to have the service running Monday to Friday.

To volunteer, apply online, call the Prince Albert branch of the Canadian Cancer Society at 306-764-4808 or email nduddridge@sk.cancer.ca.