HOMOSASSA, Fla. - A colon cancer survivor is helping patients absorb the shock of diagnosis by providing support and information.
Karen Fisher recently sat at her kitchen table putting together packets of resources for newly-diagnosed colon cancer patients.
"My goal in this is to make up folders and pamphlets so that when patients wake up from a scope and they find a mass they can hand them the information and say here's someone who has been through this. Reach out to them when you're ready," Fisher explained.
She is a colorectal cancer survivor and a hospital pharmacist. But despite working in health care, she put off getting her first colonoscopy.
"I was 54. I hadn't gotten scoped at age 50 because I was busy with the family," shared Fisher.
She got the first warning sign when she tried to donate blood.
Colon cancer survivor Karen Fisher provides support and resources for newly-diagnosed patients.
"They turned me away because my blood counts were too low, so I went to my family doctor and ran some tests. I found out I was extremely iron deficient anemic and said that the most common cause is bleeding in your gastrointestinal tract", said Fisher.
When Fisher's doctor found a mass, she felt overwhelmed.
"Not really knowing where to turn, where to get information. And I thought how do people who don't have a medical background deal with this? It's just a lot to take in and a lot to learn about", stated Fisher.
Now she's helping those patients feel in control over the process and treatment. With the help of some of her doctors, she created the Citrus Colorectal Cancer Foundation.
"I just tell them that we're here for them and if they need information about resources we're here to help. She's been a beautiful support system for me and very knowledgeable and helping me anyway she can", said Keekee Gaskin.
Keekee Gaskin was diagnosed with colon cancer at 44.
Gaskin reached out to Fisher after being diagnosed at just 44 years old.
"I knew I would have to eventually get scoped but I didn't think it would be coming this early," said Gaskin.
Janet Jones found out at the age of 43.
"I looked at the order and I saw that it was cancer and so I was sitting alone in the hospital when I found out I had cancer. I quickly contacted Karen and I said this is what's going on and I think it was like the next day she was at my house with a packet of information," Jones said.
Janet Jones was diagnosed with colon cancer at age 43.
Gaskin and Jones are not exceptions.
Studies show the rates of colorectal cancer among those under 50 are on the rise.
"There's teenagers dying of stage 4 colon cancer. We had a couple die last year and it's just so sad that this disease is hitting people so young," explained Fisher.
Colon cancer survivor Karen Fisher created the Citrus Colorectal Cancer Foundation to help others recently diagnosed with the disease.
The women are working with Fisher to pay her kindness forward.
"Somebody did it for me so I can do it for somebody else," said Gaskin.
It's letting those diagnosed with colorectal cancer know they aren't in the battle alone.
"We want to be there for people when they wake up and are feeling overwhelmed and distraught like I did. They can get through this and we're here to help," said Fisher.
LINK: For more information about the Citrus Colorectal Cancer Foundation, visit https://www.citruscrc.com/about-us.