Two years ago, Sherry Higgs was diagnosed with inflammatory breast cancer — a rare, aggressive and deadly form of cancer.
“I woke up one morning and my breast was swollen,” the 45-year-old mother recalled . “It was as if I had a bag of rocks in my breast. I knew something was wrong.”
Higgs, a Fremont resident, went to the Palo Alto Medical Foundation and had a biopsy done. It was confirmed the next week that she had cancer in her left breast.
“My timeline was not looking good,” she said. “It’s a difficult thing to process.”
Needless to say, the following year was a daunting battle filled with endless trips to hospitals and clinics for chemotherapies, treatments, check-ups and surgeries. She won, and is now in remission.
Through her journey of healing — one aided by her family, friends, her daughter Sofia and strangers leaving comments on her blog, Boob is Just Bob With an “O” — Higgs met many people in similar situations that lacked the support system that she had. She also found that there was no transportation service dedicated to cancer patients that would take them over the Dumbarton Bridge and also provide the companionship that so many with severe illnesses need, she said.
That’s when she got the idea for Drivers for Survivors, a free nonprofit service that pairs local volunteers with cancer patients in the Tri-City area to accompany them to doctor visits and medical appointments. Volunteer drivers will travel 60 miles out of the Tri-City area, which is far enough to hit all major points in the Bay Area, Higgs said.
The service alleviates patients of stress and allows them to focus on their health and treatment, said Higgs, the CEO and executive director of Drivers for Survivors.
“Simple acts of kindness can improve the lives of cancer patients and others with life threatening illness,” Higgs said. “Write a card, bring a meal to their family, take their kids to school, buy their groceries — there’s so many things that can be done.”
Drivers for Survivors is Higgs’ act of kindness.
Higgs launched a beta phase of Drivers for Survivors in February and recently held a kick-off fundraiser earlier this month.
Her movement is gaining momentum and is backed by local and regional leaders. Assemblyman Bob Wieckowski, Alameda County Supervisor Richard Valle and Fremont councilwoman Sue Chan are among the Drivers for Survivors board of directors.
The service is completely volunteer-based and Higgs is hoping to build a large database of individuals who want to help. There are currently about 50 volunteer drivers in her database. Drivers must use their personal vehicles and have a clean driving record. (Click here to learn how to volunteer with Drivers for Survivors.)
More than just a ride, she hopes volunteers will form a bond with the patients they help. Volunteers are screened and paired with patients based on similar interests.
“We want it detailed down to the hobbies. The goal is to match the patient with a companion,” Higgs said. “Some chemotherapy sessions can last 15 hours. Within reason, we’d like to be there with them."
She’s hoping to attract volunteers from all ethnicities and age groups.
Higgs is currently seeking additional funding and hopes to partner with other nonprofits and regional hospitals.
She’s also trying to expand Drivers for Survivors’ patient list so that she can help others. She’s currently doing outreach and seeking referrals from major clinics.
Patients must be able to walk as volunteer vehicles likely will not be equipped to transport patients in wheelchairs.
Though the service is limited to the Tri-Cities, Higgs hopes to expand to the greater Bay Area once she’s built a solid base.
A one-time human resources account executive for large corporations, Higgs now devotes her life to cancer awareness and helping others.
Her efforts have given her life new meaning, she said. And through Drivers for Survivors, her one-woman mission is becoming a communitywide movement, literally.
“I have no desire to do anything else but make this happen,” Higgs said.
For more information on how you can get involved, volunteer, sign-up as a patient or donate to Drivers for Survivors, visit their website at www.driversforsurvivors.org and follow them at www.facebook.com/DriversForSurvivors.