From left: Peter Halliwell, Antonia Caruso, Ron Yates, Colin Craig, Bill Scott and Trevor Putton with the newly donated van on Sept. 28 in Qualicum Beach - Cloe Logan photo

New van donated to cancer car program by Qualicum Beach woman

Antonia Caruso uses the program to get to and from appointments and wanted to pay it forward

Antonia Caruso wanted to give back to a program that she said has helped her significantly during her battle with cancer.

A patient of the Freemasons’ cancer car program, Caruso decided to donate a new van to the program — one that will be used to transport patients like her to and from doctors appointments. She uses the service twice a week to get to her chemotherapy appointments in Nanaimo from where she lives in Qualicum Beach. The Freemasons in B.C. and Yukon have run the initiative in partnership with the Canadian Cancer Society since 1989. Volunteer drivers take patients to and from cancer treatments free of charge.

Caruso has used the program since she started her most recent round of chemotherapy in November 2018. She was first diagnosed with cancer in 2017 and prior to using the program, she said she would often have to wait hours to take a bus that transported a variety of patients to and from the hospital. One day she had to wait six hours for a ride home after receiving chemotherapy.

“That was just way too much for me, I get really sick from the chemotherapy appointments,” she said.

Having more specialized transportation and care makes a big difference in Caruso’s day. Being able to use the cancer care program means her spending less time in the hospital.

“They wait for me, they’re patient, they’re loving,” said Caruso. “They give you personalized attention, they’re just very kind to me.”

Colin Craig, dispatcher for the program in Parksville and Qualicum, said when they mentioned they were in need of a new van, Caruso stepped up and offered to get them one.

“She said that our drivers and dispatches have been so wonderful to me that I just have to give back,” Craig said.

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