A voluntary service that helps to ease the trauma that cancer sufferers may experience during the treatment of their illness has been a great support to the people of the south east for the past eleven years.
At any one time an average of between twelve and fourteen people from South Tipperary avail of the South East Radiotherapy Trust (SERT), a registered charity that provides free transport, five days a week, to the cancer centre at the Whitfield Hospital in Waterford.
A team of voluntary drivers, many of them retired people, give up their free time to collect the patients from designated pick-ups points in the area and bring them to Waterford in the Trust's vehicles.
The drivers wait while the patients undergo their treatment before driving them home later that day.
The service is run by SERT in co-operation with the HSE and is funded by fundraising and voluntary subscriptions.
The service recently benefitted from a generous donation of €1,000 that was presented to SERT by the annual Vintage and Veteran run organised by the Tipperary Light Car and Motorcycle Club Ltd.
Almost 70 cars took part in the run earlier this year on its journey from Clonmel to Carrick-on-Suir, Mahon Bridge, Dungarvan, The Vee, Clogheen and Ardfinnan before returning to Clonmel.
This was the first time the club ran the event for charity and the club is grateful to the following for their generous sponsorship - John O'Donoghue and Sons, Kickham Street, Clonmel; Jim Strang, Kilsheelan; Nagle's Bar, Kilsheelan and the Pure Drop, Ardfinnan.
The SERT service is confidential and the patients' illnesses and conditions aren't discussed with the drivers.
Denis Fahey is the local SERT co-ordinator and retired Garda Toddy O'Brien is one of the regular drivers.
"Sometimes you meet patients on the street who have finished their treatment and it's great to see them healthy and well", says Toddy.
"They're always grateful for the help they received from SERT.
The patients get great comfort from each other on the journey to Waterford.
They depend a lot on each other”.
Many patients find it helpful having people to talk to about their issues.
A lot of the service users also feel a sense of camaraderie with the new people they meet.
“This service also helps the families of cancer sufferers, who otherwise would have to make a commitment to drive them to their regular appointments", says Toddy O'Brien.
SERT was established by retired Waterford consultant surgeon Gordon Watson and Eamon Keating, a former Garda Chief Superintendent who's originally from Baron Park, Clonmel.
Information for anyone who wishes to avail of the transport offered by the Trust is available from their GP or from SERT on 051-848877.