‘Friendly face’ of cancer care service to retire

Mike Cook, driver for North Devon Cancer Care radiotherapy car service will retire this July.

A driver who has become a friendly face for hundreds of North Devon cancer patients is to retire this summer.

Mike Cook, 64, has been the main driver for the North Devon Cancer Care Trust car service for the past 15 years, taking people from across the region to hospital in Exeter for radiotherapy.

The treatment is not available at Barnstaple hospital and patients need to make the journey five days a week for up to seven weeks – so a cheerful driver is a huge boost at such a difficult time.

Mike makes the run to Exeter twice a day from Monday to Thursday, picking up North Devon patients in the morning and people from Torridge in the afternoon. Relief driver John Bushnell does Fridays and holiday cover, with Trevor Gayton as reserve driver.

“Mike has been brilliant and we have had so many wonderful comments about him the whole time he has been with us,” said James Bonetta, trust chairman.

“They say how helpful and friendly he is, going out of his way to make them feel comfortable. It is obviously a strenuous time for people, so a friendly face and someone who understands is incredibly helpful.”

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The trust funds the door-to door-service, but it is operated by Go North Devon. Manager Sharon Lynch said it was a pleasure working with the trust to co-ordinate a service that benefitted so many local people.

Mike retires on July 5 after a fulfilling career that previously included the role of driver for the Go North Devon ring and ride service.

“The job satisfaction is amazing,” he said.

“When I go into town at the weekend I nearly always meet someone I have taken in for treatment and has now recovered – you build up relationships with people because of the length of time they’re on the treatment.

“I love it and it is the best have I have ever done.”

* WHEN Mike retires, the service is seeking a secure overnight parking space in Barnstaple, but one which drivers can access to pick up the vehicle at around 7.30am, returning about 7.30pm. If you can help, contact Sharon Lynch on 01271 328866.

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