AUSTIN (KXAN) - Herb Dickson met Jean Colgate about a month ago. Every Thursday and Friday morning Herb picks up Jean from her apartment in North Austin and takes her to the Austin Cancer Center at St. David's North Austin Medical Center.
"We haven't had a wreck yet on the wheelchair or the car, so we're in good shape," joked Dickson, who drives her about 10 miles round-trip to her cancer treatments.
Jean, 84, was diagnosed with lung cancer two months ago and needed radiation therapy five days a week, but does not drive. She has a son in Austin, but he works during the day. Herb works from home and fits the two-hour trip into his schedule.
Finding drivers across Central Texas has been a big struggle. Right now, the ACS can only find rides for about 30 percent of the patients requesting them in Travis and Williamson counties. Another local non-profit, Faith In Action Caregivers Northwest , helps fill the growing need. The organization also helps get Jean to her appointments the rest of the week.
While one might think high gas prices are detering volunteers, the price at the pump seems to be having more of an impact on patients.
"They don't have money for gas and they didn't budget in having to travel back and forth for eight weeks," said radiation oncologist Dr. Douglas Rivera. "And with gas prices being what they are, it's a tremendous burden."
For Jean, that worry has been wiped away.
"I am so grateful to them and everyday they have me here on time," said Jean.
It is also a way for Jean to give back after losing both parents to cancer.
"They don't take it for granted, and I think that's the most satisfying thing. I know I've helped somebody," he said.
One of Herb's most memorable patients is a 5-year-old girl who would run and hug him around the knee every time he showed up.
"She didn't have any hair and one day she got a wig, a blonde wig, and she walked out of the apartment and said, 'Look at me,"' said Herb.
As long as he can drive, Herb said he'll continue helping cancer patients on their road to recovery.
Jean is ready to switch roles.
"I really want to get over this so that I can be a volunteer," she said.
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