Standing up for the cancer volunteer became the cancer patient

CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. — A man near Cape Girardeau who is donating free car rides to cancer patients now needs just that — and more. A notable charity is committed to allowing this volunteer to live on and pass on.

“It’s good for me, but it’s good for other people, too,” said Tom Grantham, 76, of Jackson, Missouri, as he drove through his neighborhood with a FOX 2 crew.

Grantham has been a Road to Recovery volunteer for eight years, driving cancer patients to doctor’s appointments. It is about to restart after being paused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I’m excited (to start again) because I feel good enough, yes, I can safely drive people to and from treatments,” he said.

“I really understand what they’re going through now, how it’s affecting their lives. I’m getting emotional…sorry,” he said, sobbing during an interview in his living room.

The father of two and grandfather of five still rides a weekly Meals on Wheels route but is now a patient himself. In 2020 he was diagnosed with a rare, aggressive brain tumor.

The Lazarex Cancer Foundation (www.) will cover travel expenses for him to participate in a clinical trial at the renowned Dana Farber Cancer Institute in Boston. He is treated every three weeks.

The foundation has covered transportation costs, so this year around 1,500 cancer patients nationwide have been able to participate in groundbreaking clinical trials for cancer treatments. Lazarex has a $3.5 million travel budget for cancer patients this year, having started 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 and accommodation; just over and over again. How lucky Mike was to have a family who could write a check,” Dornsife said. “Then the next question arises: What do people do when they don’t? I love Tom’s heart and his spirit. He could easily decide, ‘You know, I’ve got enough on my plate.’”

“It was an opening, an aha moment,” Grantham said of his collaboration with Lazarex. “Yes, I helped these people. They appreciated it. I may not have realized how much I helped them.”

Grantham is responding well to treatment. He hopes his experimental immunotherapy will lead to a cure for future patients and that his story will send a message.

“You don’t have to face this alone. There are organizations, people, strangers, and friends and family who will help you. It’s a story to tell,” he said.

In two weeks, Grantham will be back on the road and back in the air, heading to St. Louis to catch a flight to Boston for another round of treatment, not just to keep living, but to keep giving back. Standing up for the cancer volunteer became the cancer patient

Sarah Y. Kim

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