KAREN CHARLESWORTH | Age at Diagnosis: 37 | Hometown: Harrisburg, PA
BOB HENDRICKSON | Age at Diagnosis: 37 | Hometown: Indianapolis, IN
Karen Charlesworth and Bob Hendrickson know how important your family medical history can be.
When Karen went to her doctor with fatigue, he diagnosed her with depression. Medication didn’t work, and a few months later she found a large bump on her side. With her doctor on vacation, Karen saw a new doctor who sent her directly to the hospital.
She had immediate surgery and was told she had stage III colon cancer, although she had been unaware of her family history. Two uncles died of the disease, and her father was diagnosed two years after Karen. After 15 years cancer-free, more than anything she wants her daughters to get colonoscopies.
Bob’s grandfather died of colon cancer, so when his mother was diagnosed he knew he was at risk. Three doctors told him not to worry, but he became fatigued and insisted on getting complete testing. He eventually got a colonoscopy that found tumors and numerous polyps. He had surgery and was diagnosed with stage II colon cancer.
After finishing chemotherapy, Bob participated in a study that found that he has Hereditary Non-Polyposis Colorectal Cancer (HNPCC), a genetic mutation whose carriers have an extremely high risk of developing colorectal and some other cancers. They also found that Bob’s mother, a four-time cancer survivor, has HNPCC, as do a cousin, an aunt, and two uncles.