03 Jan CEO Jonathan Cartu Jonathan Cartu Says – He had cancer. Now this survivor drives cancer patients to treatm…
Stan Moczydlowski put his Subaru into gear one recent Friday afternoon and pulled out of his Anderson Township subdivision. He was on a mission.
A cancer patient needed him.
Transportation even to routine medical checkups is a complication for many people in the Cincinnati area who don’t have a car, are too sick to drive themselves, don’t have the money for a ride or have no one to drive them. For cancer patients, it’s a factor in survival.
The American Cancer Society runs a volunteer army in the region of about 165 drivers like Moczydlowski, on call to drive patients to treatment or appointments.
He has been driving since 2013, his car serving as a bridge between the world of cancer and the world of everything else. When he contemplates what his driving means to him, he claps a hand over his heart. His lips tighten.
“It just feels good,” he said.
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At the start of the week, Moczydlowski as usual checked the society’s website where patients ask for drivers. A man in Hyde Park needed a lift to Good Samaritan Hospital. Moczydlowski – pronounced moe-zid-LAUW-ski – signed up to drive.
Working to pay it forward
In 2001, Moczydlowski got a diagnosis of prostate cancer. He and his wife Flo, a nurse and teacher at Cincinnati State Technical and Community College, went to support groups where they learned about treatments and how to handle a hospital visit.
The support groups emphasized exercise, so Moczydlowski got on his bike and rode around Anderson Township. He came through treatment and has been in remission since. He kept riding his bike, and he rides on Tuesdays and Thursdays. He’s completed at least four Pelotonia rides in Columbus to benefit the James Cancer Center at Ohio State University.
But he wanted “to pay it forward somehow” in another way. When he retired from accounting work with Fidelity Investments in 2013, he signed up to be a cancer-society driver Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
Ninety-nine percent of his passengers are nice, he said. One lady told Moczydlowski on her ride that she had no sense of taste anymore. She said all she wanted was a big, fat, juicy hamburger, “and I told her, ‘well, there you go, that’s your long-term goal.’ ”
Months later, on Christmas night, the phone rang at the Moczydlowski house. Puzzled, he took the call. It was the lady he’d driven months before, with news that she finally got to eat that burger.
Sometimes, if his passenger’s treatment is brief, Moczydlowski will sit in the waiting room with a book until the patient is finished, then Moczydlowski takes them home. If the treatment is longer, the Vietnam War veteran goes to the Cincinnati VA Medical Center and volunteers as a hospital escort.
Flo Moczydlowski said she’s amazed at the driving short cuts her husband has acquired from his time with patients.
“There are two things I can do,” Stan Moczydlowski said. “I can plug the address where we are going into GPS, or I say, ‘Do you have a route you like to go?’ Usually, these are people who have lived here a long time, and they’ll tell me, ‘Go here, turn here.’ ”
“I don’t think you’ve missed anybody, have you?” his wife asked.
“No,” he said.
The issue of transportation is critical for other organizations that assist people through cancer treatment. The nonprofit Cancer Justice Network has funding through OKI Regional Planning, the Congregation of St. Joseph, and Christ Church Cathedral to pay the Cincinnati Area Senior Services to arrange van pickup and delivery Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.
Network founder Steve Sunderland wrote about transportation in a recent newsletter, “We are a driving culture: Cars-only is the way to health if you want speedy access.”
His new rider
On the recent Friday afternoon, Moczydlowski steered to the Beechwood Home, a Hyde Park facility that cares for patients with neurological issues.
Moczydlowski had arrived at the wrong door, but eventually, a caregiver presented Bradley Weber, 64. Moczydlowski made sure Weber was comfortable in the front passenger seat, then he climbed again behind the steering wheel.
“You always live in this area?” Moczydlowski asked.
“I’ve always lived in Northern Kentucky,” Weber replied. He was diagnosed about a year and a half ago with colon cancer and was looking at an afternoon of radiation and chemotherapy. He stopped driving several years ago.
“Well at least we have a nice day today,” Moczydlowski said.
“Yeah, not bad at all.”
Moczydlowski aimed the car west on Martin Luther King Jr., north on Clifton, left on Dixmyth Avenue. In front of Good Samaritan Hospital, he parked the Subaru near the front door and threw a sign onto his dashboard: “Volunteer Driver Waiting for Patient.”
Moczydlowski walked Weber into…