Stitch by stitch, Barbara Fisher is giving back to those who helped her when she was in need.
Fisher, a breast cancer survivor, has donated hundreds of homemade masks to health care workers since April.
“While I was taking treatment, I was doing a lot of crocheting,” said Fisher, 66, who lives just north of Frederick. She finished chemotherapy in August.
Fisher made hats for cancer patients, who sometimes feel cold during treatment. When the pandemic touched down in Frederick County, she added mask making to her repertoire.
Dr. Mark Artusio, of Foris Surgical Group in Frederick, has witnessed Fisher’s generosity first hand. She made him a custom mask and donated others to the staff at Foris.
“She’s very open and giving,” Artusio said.
Fisher’s connection to the practice goes back to her days battling cancer. She has been a patient of his colleague, Dr. Steven Brand, and received a port through their practice. A port, once placed in a patient, can be used for blood draws and to administer chemotherapy, according to Fisher.
Fisher makes sure to visit the offices where she has been a patient, to say thank you, but extends this kindness to local restaurants and the grocery store. She makes masks nearly every day and estimates she’s made 1,000 since April. She carries the masks in a basket and tries to bring a variety of patterns. In October, she offered breast cancer-themed masks to Maryland Oncology in Frederick, where she was treated.
This week, she handed out Christmas- and winter-themed masks.
“Everybody seems really tickled when I take them in,” Fisher said. “Usually, I wind up with an almost empty basket.”
She started out making rectangular masks with pleats, tied back by strings. As time went on, she added elastic and new fabrics. She makes sure to wash the fabric thoroughly and sanitizes her basket. Fisher said she wanted to make sure people had enough masks to wear and to wash. She enjoys seeing smiles and hearing thanks when she makes her rounds.
Sewing, Fisher said, was the perfect activity while she was undergoing treatment and had to take it easy. Before retirement, Fisher spent 25 years working for Frederick County government. She was a collections specialist, serving in the tax office and water department.
Fisher plans to keep making masks throughout the pandemic, though she hopes there will be a vaccine soon. Until then, people in Frederick may spot Fisher traveling around with her basket full of masks.
“I decided this was something that would provide some good to people who maybe don’t have a nice, normal life right now,” she said. “That makes you feel good, when you do something for somebody special.”