LEMOORE – Giving someone a ride may seem like a simple thing but for Lemoore resident Nancy Davis, having a stranger in her passenger seat is a great way for her to help people.
Davis, 71, is a volunteer with the American Cancer Society Road to Recovery program, which provides free transportation to and from treatment for people with cancer who do not have a ride or cannot drive themselves.
“I have met some of the most extraordinary people doing what I do,” she said. “I have met people who are first of all, very courageous people and very funny people, and every single person that I’ve driven has impacted my life in a positive way.”
Since 2004, Davis has given more than 400 rides for Kings County residents to their treatment in Hanford, Fresno and Visalia.
The American Cancer Society schedules each ride with the volunteers depending on their availability. Once Davis accepts an assignment, she calls the patient to confirm the time.
Davis picks up the patients at their homes and takes them to their treatment, which can last anywhere from 10 minutes to a few hours depending on the appointment, Davis said.
During the patient’s treatment, Davis said she typically shops and has lunch with a few friends. She said she does not wait with the patient at their treatment.
“I don’t physically stay with them,” she said. “There’s a fine line between invading people’s privacy. When you pick someone up they are complete strangers. You don’t want to invade their lives.”
Davis said she has driven people with a variety of different cancers and of all ages. She said the youngest patient was in kindergarten heading with a parent to Valley Children’s Hospital in Madera.
“Cancer is ageless,” she said. “Cancer touches everybody.”
Davis said she typically gives a ride at least once a week.
“I like the flexibility of it because I have a very busy schedule,” she said. “I travel a lot, so it’s kind of neat to do it or not do it. It’s very, very flexible.”
Although Davis has never had cancer, members of her family have and that is why she volunteers. Her parents died of cancer about 20 years ago and her husband, George Davis, died of brain cancer about 10 years ago.
“Cancer has always been part of my life” she said. “Maybe I have something to share with people who have cancer. Maybe I can give them some comfort too.”
“I really love the people I meet,” she said. “I am always excited to meet the next new person because they always have an interesting story. People have interesting lives and they are willing to share it with you.”
A woman she particularly remembers talked about how she met her husband, who was a pilot. He would fly over their home dipping his wings to say hello to her.
Davis said she remembers another woman who rescued cats for a living.
“She had more cat stories than you can believe,” she said. “It was just a lot of good stories.”
Davis said she and patients talk about a lot of things other than cancer on their way to treatment. However, there are times when people get emotional when talking about their cancer.
Davis said she tries to comfort them as best she can.
“My philosophy is God only gives us today so I want to make the best of today,” she said. “That’s what I tell them. None of us are guaranteed tomorrow, and we just make the best of today. Then we cry.”
Davis said she wishes more people were aware of the Road to Recovery program.
“Part of my frustration is that people don’t know about us,” she said. “We need more drivers, but we also need the patients to know that this service is available.”
Program Manager Donna Gavello of the American Cancer Society in Fresno said there are currently 12 active Road to Recovery drivers in Kings County.
Gavello said they are always in need of volunteers in the county, especially those who are willing to drive patients to Fresno and Visalia.
“Volunteering doesn’t have to take over your life to be a valuable experience,” she said. “In fact, just three or four hours per week can be highly beneficial to both you and your chosen cause. The important thing is to volunteer only the amount of time that feels comfortable to you. Volunteering should be fun and a rewarding experience, not another chore on your to-do list.”
Davis has been living in Lemoore since 1972. She retired from the Lemoore Union Elementary School District as a warehouse supervisor. She has two daughters, five grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.
She hopes to continue volunteering with the program for as long as she can.
“It’s really a rewarding job,” she said. “It makes you appreciate your own good health, and it makes you appreciate how other people deal with their situations. I just can’t say enough about it.”