“I have people who want to help me…that’s something I’ve never had before,” Fisher, 20, said. “For the first time in my life, I feel empowered to improve my health.”
Fisher’s road to self-empowerment came after years of having her health concerns dismissed. Even as a child, she was heavyset with a protruding, round stomach. Her pediatrician told her to diet and exercise to lose weight.
“Looking back at pictures from the fifth grade, I noticed that my stomach was very round and something was off,” she said. “Strangers often asked me if I was pregnant.”
In hindsight, Fisher realizes that she put her health on the “back burner.” She stopped paying attention to her body after losing her father at 16. “I thought this was how I would be for the rest of my life.”
Seeing her mother recover from cancer gave Fisher the courage to see Dr. Heather Sharp, a primary care doctor at Ascension St. Vincent’s Mandarin, for the first time in years. “The doctor immediately knew something was wrong,” she said. “My stomach was rock hard and disproportionate to my body. She ordered CT imaging.”
When she received the results identifying a massive 50 cm by 50 cm ovarian tumor — roughly the size of an extra large watermelon — she “sobbed tears of happiness because it validated what I felt was wrong for so many years.”
Just before Christmas, Fisher went to the ER at Ascension St. Vincent’s Riverside because she was experiencing significant abdominal pain, bleeding and trouble breathing. The mass had grown so large that it was threatening Fisher’s life. Dr. Martin Martino, a gynecologic oncology surgeon at Ascension St. Vincent’s, used a minimally-invasive robotic approach to remove the 104-lb ovarian tumor.
“Tumors this size are extremely rare, so as soon as I met Allison, I knew this would be a team approach – and our team was ready,” Dr. Martino said. “The robotic-assisted technique is minimally invasive and we only make small incisions, so it often means less pain, less scarring and a faster recovery for our patients. This great surgical outcome was made possible by our multidisciplinary team, including our intensive care doctors, gynecologic oncology team, hospitalists, nursing teams and dietitians, who all helped Allison in this critical moment.”
After removing her breathing tube, Fisher’s first words were: “Thank you so much; you saved my life!”
Fisher said she’s never felt so happy with her own body. She will meet with a bariatric care team to continue her journey to better health.
“Before surgery, I didn’t feel there was any hope for the future,” she said. “Now, I feel so excited and empowered to start a weight loss journey. It feels good to know that I can live a healthy life.”
For more information on Ascension St. Vincent's Center for Gynecologic Oncology and Advanced Women's Health, call 904-308-1350.