On June 6, 2007, I was sitting in the break
room of the Cancer Car office waiting for my
next ‘trip-slip’ – our nickname for pickup
assignments. My dispatcher, Alan McLeod,
approached me with a pickup in the down-
town Vancouver area. As I began to leave he
said, “You’ll have to take the booster seat
I hesitated for a moment, as I’d never
needed to use the booster seat before. It was
rare for us to bring young children to cancer
treatments, since an adult must accompany
children younger than age 16 to the hospital,
and in most instances those adults provide
transportation. As I carried the seat outside
and began to install it, I thought about how
I would approach this situation. I knew
I would eventually drop off the child and
mother at Vancouver Children’s Hospital.
I’d brought teenagers there before, but in my
estimation, the patients were old enough
to understand their circumstances. I knew
this day’s journey would be different.
I have encountered many types of individuals while driving for the Cancer Car
Project. The previous Wednesday, on my
last trip of the afternoon, I picked up a
woman at the Cancer Clinic. She sat in my
car, let out a sigh, and began to slowly cry.
She told me that it was her last day of treatment. As I drove her
home and listened to her talk about her illness, I began to well
up myself. She told me that she was going to stop raising her
voice at her daughter, and I told her to give her daughter a hug
when she got home. As I stopped the car to drop her off, she
held my hand for a moment and thanked me for my assistance. I
smiled and thanked her in return for the opportunity of driving.
I cannot begin to express the satisfaction I get from being a
volunteer driver. Wednesday mornings are a highlight for me.
Driving the Cancer Car keeps me grounded, and it allows me to
address “real world” issues – to give back in a meaningful way.
I do not have to be a medical practitioner; I just need to have
a clean driving permit and be a patient, safe, and responsible
driver. During my five-hour volunteer shift, I have a clear goal:
to make sure the patients and their family members are safely
driven in a timely manner to and from their hospital treatments.
Some days are tough. Fellow drivers may fall ill; cars may break
down; we may need to navigate bad weather. But, I work with
some of the nicest folks around and we always come together as
a cohesive group. I feel blessed to be a part of such a team.
As I drove down Thurlow Street towards my young pickup,
I continued to feel anxious. I parked in the rear alley, phoned
the apartment to announce my arrival, and waited. About five
minutes later, a woman came outside. A few steps behind her
was a small child dressed in a pink raincoat and pants. The little
girl was about 5 years old, but if it were not for her brisk walking pace, I would have thought she was about 2. She was a tiny,
relatively bald figure. If she had been pushed in a carriage, she
could have been mistaken for a newborn. She had no eyebrows
to go with her small tuft of re-growing hair.
I tried not to look too closely, as I was afraid I might make
her feel uncomfortable. “No rush folks; please, take your time,”
I said, opening the door.
Sometimes as a driver, you have to listen and wait for opportunities to communicate. In some instances, especially when
clients don’t speak English, there is no speaking at all. On those
rides, I focus on the road and accomplishing my goal of bringing the patient to his or her destination safely. I get through my
A CANADIAN BROTHER SHARES
HIS FIRST-PERSON ACCOUNT
OF A TRANSFORMATIVE
by Robert Segulam Singh