Fort Sanders Regional patient promotes early detection
When it came to health screenings, one word described Karen Russell: vigilant. A stroke survivor who worked at Fort Sanders Regional Medical Center for years, she was always faithful about scheduling check-ups at her doctor’s office.
Except for one. Every year, Russell’s physician would emphasize the importance of getting a screening colonoscopy. Every year, Russell would refuse. For one thing, she had heard stories about the “prep” solution that patients have to drink before having the procedure.
The debate went on for years, until Russell was nearing retirement. Then one day last October Russell came home from work to find an at-home test kit on her front porch – from her doctor.
“He didn’t tell me he was sending it,” Russell says. “He got tired of fighting with me and he just had it sent!”
Russell snatched the package off the porch and put it away. She came across it while she was cleaning up after the holidays.
“I’m not going to do it,” Russell told herself adamantly. “I don’t want to do it and I’m not going to do it.”
But she couldn’t shake the feeling that she needed to take the test. Looking back, Russell says she believes God was guiding the process.
Russell sent her sample back to the company that made the test kit. Two weeks later, she received a call from her physician’s office. Her doctor had received the results: Russell tested positive.
Understanding that a home test can have a “false positive” result, Russell chose not to worry about it. But she scheduled a colonoscopy to be sure, and had the procedure on New Year’s Eve. When the procedure was finished, her gastroenterologist, delivered the news that he had found a polyp the length of a finger and that it appeared to be cancerous.
Fort Sanders Regional surgical oncologist Troy Kimsey, MD, removed the cancer before the end of January. Russell spent five days in the hospital, and says she was treated with complete care, kindness and respect at Fort Sanders Regional. “In fact, I couldn’t have been treated any better.”
The next time she saw her family physician, she apologized to him.
Russell wants to make sure everyone knows that the benefits of having a colonoscopy far outweigh the fears. Catching the cancer in time meant avoiding chemotherapy, and may have saved her life.
“I dodged a bullet,” Russell says plainly. “Don’t wait. It’s important.”