Every single day we’re grateful for the incredible network we have at Studio Pilates International and one example is one of our franchisees who’s not just passionate about fitness but also a previvor of breast cancer. Marisa Fuller is the proud owner of three Studio Pilates locations across The US, South Slope, Porters Neck & Cobble Hill and her journey through preventive surgeries has forged a resilient spirit that now fuels her Pilates practice and purpose. In the studio, her focus is on empowering clients to cherish and strengthen their bodies. With a personal history that underscores the importance of health, she brings a unique, empathetic approach to her work, turning each session into an opportunity for mutual growth and support.
With October being National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we wanted to take the opportunity to share the stories of some of the inspiring women in our network, to start a conversation that could positively create preventative action.
What’s your experience with Breast Cancer?
I never had Breast Cancer, however my mom is a survivor. My ancestry and having someone in my family with Breast Cancer means that my genes would probably carry the mutated BRCA1 gene, which causes Breast Cancer, Ovarian Cancer and other cancers.
My mom has been a survivor since I graduated college in 1998. Around that time I read a book “Pretty is What Changes” by Jessica Queller and it’s one of the most profound books I’ve ever read to date. It’s about a woman who was faced with deciding if she was going to do preventative surgeries after finding out she was BRCA1+ during a time when the world was not talking about this nor were doctors on board to do these surgeries. Reading about her strength and determination to not have to go through what her mom went through with her Breast Cancer, really was inspiring. A woman taking matters into her own hands.
I put the book away during my 20’s as I was not ready to get tested for the BRCA gene as I really knew I was going to be tested positive. I had made up my mind that when I did the test that I knew I would do the preventative surgeries.
Did you have a family history of Breast Cancer?
Yes, my mom is a survivor. My grandmother passed away from cancer and other relatives have also tested BRCA1+.
Did you regularly self-check prior to the diagnosis?
Yes, as well as regular routine surveillance doctor appointments prior to my preventative surgeries.
Tell me a bit about the treatment process?
My journey is not about treatment but rather it was taking preventative action. I had 3 breast surgeries and then my double mastectomy; all 4 of these surgeries were over a 2 month period. I went right into having implants inserted during my double mastectomy where others sometimes go through having expanders. Unfortunately a year after my mastectomy one of the implants erupted so I had to have another surgery to replace them. I wanted to give my body a rest and heal, so I waited a year before I had an oophorectomy. All 6 of these surgeries did help to bring my chances of getting breast cancer down to 1%; however, it did put me into menopause right away and I am still doing surveillance as I still do have my uterus.
Who or what helped you the most during this period of your life?
My family and friends are the ones who helped me through this period of my life.
Were there any programs or services offered that helped you?
There were no programs or services offered to me at the time. There are a ton now which is amazing to see but when I was going through my journey, it still was a topic that most did not talk about.
How did this change the course of your life?
It really makes you realize that living to the fullest is so important. Wake up everyday doing what you love and surround yourself with positive and supportive people.
What’s one piece of advice you would like to share with all women reading this regarding their own health?
This is your life. Make decisions for your body and health and do not let the doctors make the decisions for you. Also know you are not alone – which is why I believe there’s so much power in having conversations like these.
Please feel free to add anything I haven’t included and you wish to share.
Everytime after I had surgery and the doctor would give me the go ahead to start working out again, I turned to Pilates to help with my recovery and to build my strength again. I am grateful for having Reformer Pilates in my life.