CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. – A man near Cape Girardeau who donates free car rides for cancer patients now needs that very thing – and more. A remarkable charity is stepping up so this volunteer can keep living and keep giving.
“This is good for me but it’s good for other people, too,” said Tom Grantham, 76, of Jackson, Missouri, as he took a FOX 2 crew for a ride through his neighborhood.
Grantham is an eight-year volunteer for the Road to Recovery program, driving cancer patients to medical appointments. It’s about to restart after being sidelined by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I’m anxious (to get started again) because I feel good enough that, yes, I can safely drive people to and from treatments,” he said.
“I really understand what they’re going through now, how it effects their life. I get emotional…sorry,” he said sobbing during an interview in his living room.
The father of two and grandfather of five still drives a weekly Meals on Wheels route but is now a patient himself. He was diagnosed in 2020 with a rare, aggressive, brain cancer.
The Lazarex Cancer Foundation (www. https://lazarex.org) is covering travel expenses so that he can be part of a clinical trial at the renowned Dana Farber Cancer Institute in Boston. He has treatments every three weeks.
The foundation has covered transportation costs so that about 1,500 cancer patients could be part of groundbreaking clinical trials for cancer treatments nationwide already this year. Lazarex has a $3.5 million travel budget for cancer patients this year after starting with a single patient in 2006. Dana Dornsife started the charity after her late brother-in-law, Mike, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.
“We kept reaching into our pockets to pay for gas, tolls, parking, lodging; just over and over and over. How fortunate Mike was that he had a family who could write a check,” Dornsife said. “Then the next question pops up: what do people do when they don’t? I love Tom’s heart and his spirit. He could easily decide, ‘You know, I have enough on my plate.’”
“It was an opening, an ‘a-ha’ moment,” Grantham said of his pairing with Lazarex. “Yeah, I was helping these people. They appreciated it. I didn’t realize maybe how much I was helping them.”
Grantham is responding well to treatment. He hopes his experimental immunotherapy leads to a cure for future patients and that his story sends a message.
“You don’t have to face it alone. There’s organizations, people, strangers, as well as friends and family, who will help you. That’s a story that’s important to tell,” he said.
In two weeks, Grantham will be back on the road and back in the air again, driving to St. Louis to catch a flight to Boston for another round of treatment, not just to keep living, but to keep giving back.