By Libby Denkmann
Sabrina Mariutto was stunned when she found out she had cancer and had to fly from her home in Fairbanks, Alaska to the Madigan Army Medical Center near Tacoma. The blow of the sudden diagnosis was partially softened when the Mariutto family realized that people at the Fisher House were ready to help them while Sabrina had her treatment.
"Even 20 years in the military, I didn't know what the Fisher House was. They explained to us that the Fisher House was a place we could stay for free," Sabrina's father told the Ron and Don show.
Sabrina was shocked that she could get cancer. She exercised and ate healthy food.
"At first it was a shock that I could get cancer," said Sabrina, "Like, how? I was really active in sports, we always ate healthy at home, so it was kind of like wow, how can this be happening?"
The Mariuttos immediately flew to Joint Base Lewis-McChord to get Sabrina the best treatment possible for her rare Ewing's Sarcoma. They would have to stay in the area for months and weren't sure where they were going to stay until they were approached by volunteers from Fisher House.
The house, right across the street from the hospital, had rooms for families, as well as a kitchen stocked with snacks. Fisher House volunteers come to cook for families and spend time with guests.
"You don't have to worry about if you always have food. If you come back from the hospital at one in the morning, you don't have to worry if there's food, like if you have to go to the grocery store. If it's closed... there's always just those little things they provide that get you through those tough times. It's incredible what they did for us," said Sabrina.
Fisher House has eight rooms and a small common area and kitchen. It's designed specifically for military families who need to stay in the area while a family member is in the hospital.
Just last year, Fisher House helped over 300 families and saved them over $450,000 in expenses.
Sabrina's treatment in Tacoma took six months, and the Mariuttos were able to stay at the Fisher House the entire time.
"I just don't know how to describe them, they're so caring and loving. They would do anything for you. They would give an arm and a leg, just anything they can they would give to you," said Sabrina.
Since then, Sabrina has been determined to keep an upbeat attitude. Instead of giving up, she's joined other cancer patients in Seattle Children's Hospital in a viral video to show people how strong they are.
For Sabrina and her family, though, Fisher House provided the help for them to get started right away with the treatment that has saved Sabrina's life. After she has a bone marrow transplant at Children's hospital, where she was transferred in May, Sabrina will be able to go home and start her senior year in high school.
"I will always remember because it changed my life. I tell you, if my wife and I had to concentrate on paying the bills, worrying where to stay - all that stuff - she [Sabrina] would not be in the health she is now," said Sabrina's father.
For more information and to help support Fisher House, click here.
"Holidays, birthdays & anniversaries have been celebrated with tears and smiles with people who truly understand what the other person is experiencing."
- Kamryn Jaroszewski