A bus ride reunited cancer patients and family members who rode the 'cancer bus' recently for six weeks of treatment. At left, Art and Cleo Hunt wear their western hats. On the right in the back is Sheri Frey, daughter of patient Bob Winquist in front. In the powder blue shirt is Bob's brother Tom. Bottom left, Bob Winquist found comfort and comaraderie on the CWTA bus. Bus driver Wayne Townsend, in the blue cap, helps cancer patients relax and enjoy the ride. Bottom right, the Hunts boarded the bus for a reunion trip to Caberfae to visit Winquist and his family.
CWTA bus driver Wayne Townsend helps Bob Winquist climb aboard the 'cancer bus'
July 27, 2012 - Cadillac News
By Mardi Suhs
Last summer, 80 year-old Bob Winquist played 200 rounds of golf, followed by downhll skiing at Caberfae in early winter.
But while vacationing in Florida, he was diagnosed with a cancerous brain tunor. After surgery, follow-up radiation treatments meat driving to Traverse City five days a week for six weeks.
"When any of us find out we need treatment in Traverse City, we don't know how to do it," said his wife Ariadne. "How can we do this every single day?"
The coujple drove to the Biederman Cancer Treatment Center for their first appointment and were told that a CWTA bus would pick Bob up and take him home everyday for free, all the way to their home near Caberfae.
That was good news for family caregivers, but how would Bob feel about riding with strangers?
Turns out, the 'cancer bus' is popular with patients. They love the drive and the driver. And they develop a special camaraderie with other patients who take pride in not having to depend on friends and family to get to treatments.
The last place cancer patients expect to have fun is on the ride to radiation treatments. But that's what's happening on the CETA Healthway Express, dubbed the 'cancer bus'.
"People told us this bus was going to be an amazing experience," said Cleo Hunt, who went with her husband, Art, every day for seven weeks during his radiation treatment for bladder cancer. "We got to know different types of people with different views. But we all had a lot in common."
"I looked forward to the bus," said Bob Winquist, who rode with the Hunts and had radiation treatment for brain cancer. "I was relieved that my wife didn't have to drive me everyday. Once you start riding, you find outthere are other people with serious problems, you aren't alone. You share your experiences. It makes the time of treatment easy and much more fun."
Terry Anderson, 54, also rode the bus with them.
"I would have been broke if it weren't for that bus," he stated. "When you have treatment, you are tired, too tired to drive. And a tank full of gas would have cost me 50 bucks a day."
But when he first heard about the bus, he was nervous. "Remember when you were a kid and had to get on the bus when school started," he said. "You don't know anybody and you feel like you are going to be out of place. But we started talking. It was really cool. It was like a big family."
When Art had his last treatment recently, he and his wife dressed up to celebrate. And Terry brought his guitar. They didn't want to say goodbuy to their new friends. That day, the cancer bus had the air of a party bus.
"We decided to wear out western gear," said Art, 84. "We thought the last day deserved something special. At the treatment center, they ring a bell for you on the last day."
All the patients had high praise for the Biederman center and staff. And rave reviews for their driver, Wayne Townsend.
Wayne stimulates the stories and camaraderie," Ariadne said. Her husband Bob agreed with a wide grin.
"Wayne is the catalyst," Bob said. "It's the driver that creates this atmosphere." Townsend, 64, is the bus driver who job has become a calling. Every morning, he gets up early to pray "about the people on my bus and for a safe day . . . You are dealing with people going through a bad time. They are sick. I try to keep it light. We laugh and we kid each other."
He's polite and concerned about everyone," Glee Fenby said. "He's fun and has a sense of humor. It was a very special experience in my life, taking that bus. If you talk to anyone on the bus they will say they felt like we were family. Who would ever believe that?"
"Wayne truly has a love for mankind," said CWTA director Vance Edwards. "It's hard to find people like Wayne. I have no doubt that he is extending lives and giving people a reason to live. He's an inspiration."
Edwards has a stack of thank-you cards on his desk from grateful customers. "It's more than a bus," he said. "There's so much therapy . . . the therapists are the driver and the riders. They have each other. Some of the people are terminal and they talk about life. Cancer shouldn't be scary. Our goal is to help. We can attach it together, even on the local transportation."