roger road to recoveryLike most people, Roger McLean has been touched by cancer. His father had prostate cancer and his mother-in-law died of pancreatic cancer. But despite his close ties to the disease, the 68-year-old Michigan man insists that has never been his motivation for getting involved with the American Cancer Society.

After a chance meeting in 2008 with a volunteer driver for the Society’s Road To Recovery® program, which provides cancer patients with rides to treatment, Roger says he was inspired to become a driver. And he hasn’t looked back. In the past 5 years, Roger has driven hundreds of patients thousands of miles, and it’s not unusual for him to put in a day with more than 100 miles for a single patient. He believes it’s his calling.

“I feel so fortunate to be such an intimate part of people’s lives,” he says. “I’ve made so many friends over these past few years and become a part of people’s families.”

Roger is motivated by these friendships and says that he’s inspired by the sincerity and honesty that cancer patients typically possess. “They’re willing to share their fears, how they are feeling, and they speak the truth,” he says. “It’s not a surface relationship like you have with most acquaintances.”

Many of the people Roger has driven have become more than friends, and their families have become his family, too.

Two years ago on Christmas Day, Roger took a call from a woman he had driven many times. She called to tell him she was dying, but she wanted him to know how thankful she was for his friendship and his help in getting her to the treatment she had desperately needed. Then, 48 hours later she passed.

Another former passenger passed away early on in Roger’s days volunteering, but he still keeps in contact with the man’s daughter as often as possible. He believes he serves as a link for her to someone who was there with her father near the end.

And even more of his former passengers are alive and well. Roger talks to and visits with many of them as often as he can.

Driving has even expanded Roger’s support of cancer patients by introducing him to platelet donation and spreading the word on Society programs and services at hospitals he visits. He recently volunteered to drive a bus full of platelet donors to a local hospital, so they could all get there for their donation. And in his frequent trips to the hospital he has met many other cancer patients that don’t need rides, but may need something else – like someone to talk to, financial help or a support group – and he’s able to pass along the American Cancer Society phone number and website to ensure those people get the support they need, too.

Roger says that the work he’s doing today is the most important he’s done his whole life.

"In all my efforts to make a difference in this life, I've failed,” he says. “I served in Vietnam and came home to people that spit on me. I was a Detroit police officer and by the time I retired, the city was much worse off than when I started. But I've never had a bad day driving a cancer patient. I know I'm making a difference in their life and their families’ lives, and I truly feel I finally found at 68 what I was called to do."