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Frank Gray


Helping hand: Fund eases cancer travel expenses

Bud Dyer

Bud Dyer says he spent nearly 20 years in the chemotherapy room at area hospitals between the late 1980s and the mid-2000s.

It started in 1988 when his daughter, Jeneé, was diagnosed with cancer.

There were daily drives to receive treatment and extended stays in out-of-state hospitals.

Dyer's daughter died in 1995.

Then in 1998, cancer struck his family again.

Dyer's wife, Pat, was diagnosed with the disease.

There were the sometimes daily trips for treatment, day after day for weeks on end, and the various expenses that accompanied those trips.

When you're dealing with cancer, Dyer says, there is no such thing as a minor expense.

It was while his wife was undergoing treatments that he became aware of something that had never occurred to him before.

He knew that people fighting cancer might become unable to work. He knew that sometimes fellow family members had to quit work to care for them.

What he didn't realize was that the expense of merely traveling to get treatment became out of reach for many people.

They couldn't afford the gas to drive to Indianapolis numerous times a week, or to drive from other cities in the region to Fort Wayne every day for weeks on end.

Some people were actually forced to skip treatments because they didn't have the gas to make it to the hospital.

Sometimes, he said, his wife would encounter a patient with this problem, and she'd slip them a few dollars for gas.

“A lot of people don't realize how often and how much it costs,” Dyer said.

When Dyer's wife died, one of her last wishes was that he set up a fund that would take care of these people.

So he set up a bank account, spread the word among friends and businesses he'd gotten to know over the years and persuaded them to make donations.

Then he would buy gas cards, a few hundred dollars' worth at a time, and make them available to nurses in the oncology departments, and they would pass them out to patients who needed them.

“I ran it myself for six years,” Dyer said.

Then, a couple of years ago Parkview Hospital approached Dyer about establishing a non-profit organization that would be run through Parkview.

Individuals and businesses could make donations, and the non-profit could qualify patients who needed help and distribute gas cards.

One concern Dyer had, though, was that he didn't want someone getting paid a fat salary to run the non-profit.

He recognized that there are expenses in running an organization like this, he said, but he wanted every penny to go to help people.

The organization is up and running now. It has attracted major donors, large corporations, trusts at local banks, etc. There's a fundraiser coming up in July.

The problem is, Dyer says, just as people don't know that people undergoing chemotherapy might not be able to afford the gas to get to appointments, some patients might not know about the program, and with today's privacy policies, you can't ask patients if they need help, Dyer said.

“It would be nice to make those who don't know about it aware of it,” Dyer said.

Dyer is also considering other expenses that cancer patients have, such as the need for child care during treatment.

Even fully insured patients often find themselves drowning in other expenses, he said.

The fund is called the Pat Dyer Memorial Fund, 11143 Parkview Drive, Suite 100, Fort Wayne, IN 46845.

Frank Gray reflects on his and others’ experiences in columns published Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. He can be reached by phone at 461-8376, by fax at 461-8893, or by email at You can also follow him on Twitter @FrankGrayJG.