It took a cancer diagnosis at the age of 40 to wake up Lisa Wrobel to the fact that something in her life needed to change.

At the time, Wrobel, who stands at roughly 5 feet tall, weighed 340 pounds. Her doctor told her the cancer was contained to her uterus and while he had experience doing this type of surgery, he’d prefer not to because of the risks involved with her weight.

“For most of my life, the word cancer has scared me,” Wrobel said. “I always thought that was the one thing I didn’t want to have because how do you deal with that? It’s a scary thought. When I heard that diagnosis, it was just like a switch flipped. I was either going to have to start liking myself more and work toward it or just do what I’ve always done which is let things happen. I had to be proactive.”

Wrobel said she’d lost weight in the past here and there, but she’d always gained it right back. She decided this time would be different, but she started small with just walking and eating better. In six months, she lost 60 pounds, just enough to have the surgery.

“After the surgery, I kind of felt good and it wasn’t really hard at that point,” she said. “I decided to keep going and see how far I could go. I never set a weight goal because I had failed so many times in the past, so it would have just been another disappointment.”

Without a set goal, she kept doing what she was doing, added working out at Curves and eventually, after losing 125 pounds and going through one skin-reduction surgery, she joined a corporate gym and began going there almost daily. It was there, after shedding 45 more pounds, that she was approached by a personal trainer who invited her to a boot camp he held on the weekends. Wrobel agreed.

“I had hit a plateau,” she said. “I had an eight-month plateau. I stayed the same weight. He was training me for three months before I agreed to try his nutrition plan. The instant I changed to his plan, I started dropping.”

After that trainer left, Wrobel met other trainers at the gym, Kimberly and Andrew Hangartner, who eventually opened Alpha Elite Fitness in Ahwatukee Foothills where Wrobel currently trains three times a week.

Wrobel lost 208 pounds total. She said now she’s up and down a little, but it’s healthy gains as she’s building muscle and becoming stronger. She does personal training at Alpha Elite three times a week, cardio work three times a week and spends a lot of time hiking and biking. She’s completed several mud runs and recently completed a half-marathon in 2 hours and 36 minutes. She said she hopes to do another in the future in order to meet her real goal — 2 1/2 hours.

Wrobel also wrote a book about her journey through weight loss. It took two years to write. “Victory Over Obesity” was meant to be a tribute to those who’ve given her support over the years, but she was encouraged by them to make it more personal and then share it with the world. Her message is that weight loss is possible.

“You don’t need any fancy extreme surgery or personal training (although it’s nice to have the support and I obviously recommend it), but you can do it and you can do it on your own,” she said. “There’s always hope. When I found out I had cancer and started this journey, I was 40, an age where they say it becomes very difficult to start losing the weight. What I figured out and the most important thing is that you actually have to like yourself. You have to believe in yourself, trust yourself, all things I had stopped doing.”

Now that the weight is off, Wrobel is doing what she can to inspire others. Those who know her decided they wanted to do something in return. A Go Fund Me page,, has been started for Wrobel so that she can have another skin-reduction surgery, which is necessary to overcome some final health issues.

• Contact writer: (480) 898-7914 or

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