“I was at the lowest point of where anybody should be, to the point where the only reason I stayed here on Earth is because of my daughter.” These harrowing words begin the phoenix-from-the-ashes tale of Theresa Fackler’s life. Having suffered through a cancer scare, a failed marriage, and an emotionally abusive relationship, Theresa found herself wondering if she could go on.
“After my daughter was born, I was at my six week checkup when they found cervical cancer,” she explains. “They said if she wouldn’t have been born when she was, they would’ve never found it.” Doctors were able to remove enough of Theresa’s cervix to eliminate the cancer, but her treatment came at a high cost: “I always wanted more than one child, but when we were at the oncologist, I said, ‘Well, can we try again really quick? What if I get pregnant again really quick? What’s the prognosis?’ He said, ‘In two-and-a-half years, you’ll be dead.’” Left unable to have more children, Theresa tried to focus on the joy of her daughter, whom she credits with saving her life.
However, her marriage suffered and ended, and Theresa entered another relationship that turned out to be one of the defining points of her life. “I have no idea how I got pulled into it, let alone stayed in it for so long,” she shakes her head. “I have no idea how somebody can make somebody feel like they are nothing and tell them that they’ll never be loved—that they’re not worth anything.” The emotional abuse she suffered shattered Theresa’s self esteem and left her feeling angry and hopeless. One day, a close friend saw what was going on and took her to a boxing gym.
“’You just need to punch it out,’ she said, ‘because I know you’re not going to talk about it.’ So I just put a face on the [punching] bag and went to town, and learned some moves, and found a therapy I never would’ve imagined for me.” Before that point, Theresa didn’t exercise at all, but once she found boxing, “I fell in love with it,” she explains. “It really took me from a place of having no self-esteem, no self-worth, no self-confidence… to really turning a corner.”
Theresa found the strength to leave the abusive relationship she was in, and focused on her newfound love of fitness: “I had so much pent up anger. Not just at him and the situation, but at myself for allowing it to happen. I put that on the bag, and tried to leave it there. Boxing was empowering! As the years went on, I just got more and more into fitness, and I started thinking about how this really changed my life—how a bag and a pair of boxing gloves changed my life. I decided I could maybe give back. I worked through a lot of pain, and finally came to the realization that I was thankful for what happened.”
Over the next several years, Theresa became a fitness instructor, and, with a friend’s encouragement, earned her personal training certificate. “I just had that deep-seated feeling inside that this could help somebody else,” she says. One of her first client referrals came from a situation similar to her own, and Theresa knew she had found her calling: “If you could just see the difference in her now. It’s done the same thing for her that it did for me, and it’s crazy. It just makes my heart swell.”
Having just completed her first triathlon for her 50th birthday, Theresa loves her happy and healthy new life. “It’s a sense of accomplishment,” she grins, “to know that even as I get older, I can still continue to reach new heights and do new things, and that age is just a number.”
And for other women who might be facing dark times like Theresa once did, she offers this advice: “Don’t give up. I was scared to tell anybody, because of how embarrassed I was, but tell somebody. Do whatever you have to do to get out of the situation. We’ve all been given the gift at birth to tell when something isn’t right, and whether you choose to listen to it or not is up to you. But you can change. You can change it. It’s a choice. It really is.”