Road to Recovery

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by Jennifer Tomazic

BROOKFIELD -- Chemotherapy and radiation treatment can make cancer patients too nauseous to drive themselves home from their appointments.

That's where the American Cancer Society's Road to Recovery comes in.

The program offers cancer patient free rides to or from any appointment or treatment.

"Being diagnosed with cancer, there's not a lot of time to laugh so my rides to my treatment are the best part of my day," said Leslie Smith-Hardt.

She has taken the Road to Recovery since she started treatments in February. The day CBS 58 caught up with her, Smith-Hardt was on her way to radiation treatment at Columbia St. Marys.

Her driver, Andy Berg, picked her up on crisp fall morning, which started the conversation and it continued the entire way to Smith-Hardt's appointment.

"It's a great day for a drive," said Smith-Hardt, admitting that she had a hard time sleeping the night before. But as soon as she got into the car, she says the mood lightened.

"He (Berg) has so many jokes and I don't know how he remembers them all!" she exclaimed.

"There were these two skunks named In and Out," said Andy. "Mother skunk said to Out, 'How did you find In so fast? He said, 'In stinked."

Berg and Smith-Hardt shared a laugh, but that's not the only thing they share in their friendship.

"I have had skin cancer twice," Berg notes. He beat the condition and offers his encouragement and genuine tenderness to his riders.

"It's wonderful. I really get more out of it than they do," said Berg. "They only get a ride to and from their appointments but I get the pleasure of meeting new people."

"If it weren't for them, I probably wouldn't be getting the treatment that I am," said Smith-Hardt. "He just brightens up your day and makes it so you're not so much dreading where you're going and what you're going for."

Patients can find out more about the Road to Recovery program by going to http://www.cancer.org/Treatment/SupportProgramsServices/road-to-recovery.

Heather Byron with the American Cancer Society says they are always looking for volunteer drivers.

"Most of them get involved because they've been affected by cancer one way or another," said Byron. "Either they're a survivor, they know someone who's a survivor and it's their way to fight back against this disease and really make a difference."

Right now, there are 70 drivers in the Milwaukee area and last year they gave 1,800 rides. The drivers are responsible for using their own vehicles and paying for their own gas.

But the little time and money they contribute is nothing compared to what everyone gets out of the rides.

"I see the grief of people going through it and if I can be a help to them, that's why I do it," said Berg.

"Having the road to recovery has just been a blessing," said Smith-Hardt. "It's wonderful."


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