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Tracey Mallett's inspiring fight for life

Fitness guru Tracey Mallett had to deal with a medical crisis some doctors said would take her life. But they were wrong.
April 28, 2014 12:00:00 AM PDT
No quitting.

That's celebrity fitness guru Tracey Mallett's mantra. The founder of the wildly popular "Booty Barre" workouts is devoted to guiding and motivating people to be their healthiest.

And she was the pinnacle of health, except for suffering occasional headaches. But one day while on a tour in her native England, Mallett said, the pain in her head became excruciating -- unlike any migraine she'd felt before.

"My body shut down. My head felt as though it didn't belong to my body," she said.

Her brain scan revealed stunning news.

"I came conscious the next day to a doctor telling me, 'You've got a tumor on your brain.' I thought he was joking actually. I couldn't believe it," said Mallett.

Even more incredulous is what British doctors told her next. The tumor was cancerous and had spread. In fact, Mallet said, one doctor told her to return home and be with family for what little time she had left.

"You go from the healthiest person in the world to helping people, inspire people, to exercise and eat healthy. And then to be told you've got a brain tumor, that you've possibly got little amount of time to live. No, it isn't fair. No, it's not. And I wasn't prepared to deal with that diagnosis," said Mallett. "I couldn't accept that I was dying. I couldn't accept that. Who can?"

Mallett flew back home to the U.S., determined to find a way to beat it. Her first stop was the Keck Medical Center of USC. There, her brain scans told neurosurgeon Gabriel Zada a very different story.

"We thought it was a meningioma, which we know is a treatable condition," said Zada.

Meningiomas are tumors that form on the lining of the brain. It's estimated about 1-2 percent of the population has them. But experts say only about one in 1,000 will need treatment.

"After looking at Tracey's MRI, I felt that we could safely remove this tumor," said Zada.

No surgery is without risks, and with this procedure, she faced some very serious ones, including the possibility of stroke, impaired vision and slurred speech. But doctors told Mallett that the golf ball-sized tumor had to be removed.

Surgeons cut a horseshoe shaped incision above her left ear. Less than 24 hours after the grueling seven-hour surgery, Mallett was up in her hospital room performing a modified arabesque. Being fit played a huge role in Mallett's rapid recovery.

"A lot of it is to be, one, in good shape. But I also believe in a positive attitude. I so believe in positive thinking. People underestimate the power of the brain," said Mallett.

Zada and his team determined the tumor wasn't cancer. Mallett no longer has to worry. She now has a new mission: live in the moment. She says slow down, look around and make sure you are living the life you want to live and be an advocate for your own health.

Mallett says her "no quitting" mantra applies no matter what doctors tell you.

"Get lots of different opinions. Everyone is going to have a different opinion and be very proactive about your health," said Mallett.

Coming back from a dire medical crisis has given Tracey a new clarity on just how precious life is.

"I feel I'm a better person from it, less stressful cause I'm very happy to have what I have in my life," said Mallett.

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