REDFORD — When CVPH’s FitzPatrick Cancer Center was seeking someone to transport out-of-town patients to and from treatments, Pam Heywood knew just the person for the job.
Her mother, Ann Bell of Redford, had recently retired from Georgia Pacific, and after years of running machines and interacting with co-workers, she was finding retirement a bit boring.
“My daughter said that I had too much time on my hands,” Bell said.
So Heywood, the office coordinator of the Cancer Center’s Radiation Department, recommended Bell for the position.
“She loves to drive,” Heywood said of her mother. “A lot of people don’t like to drive a lot, but she does, and she’s very good with people.”
In March 1997, Bell began her duties, which involved daily van trips to Tupper Lake and Saranac Lake, where she’d pick up passengers at the local Stewart’s Shops and transport them to Plattsburgh for cancer treatment.
“I had the morning run, which I liked,” she said.
Bell would wait while the patients received their daily doses of radiation therapy and other services before returning them home.
“On the way down, they talked all the time, but on the way (back) up, they slept,” she said.
Over the course of her nearly 17 years driving the van, Bell, who retired in January, formed friendships with many of her passengers and their families.
“Sometimes you’d laugh with them or you cry with them,” she said.
As Bell drove, the patients would discuss the health problems they were facing, but she’d make an effort to lighten the mood with humor.
“I just told jokes and told them I was the boss, (and) if they didn’t watch it, I’d have to kick them off,” she said.