Marion Morris is a familiar face in the Hudson Valley. A master hairstylist with more than 30 years of experience under her belt, Morris opened her namesake Marion Salonspa back in September 1999 after operating an Aveda Concept home salon for 12 years. Since then, she’s been a permanent fixture in the local beauty scene, helping Hudson Valleyites to look and feel beautiful from inside out.
Morris had (and still has) a really, really good thing going in Dutchess County. Over the years, she served as the driving force behind her spa’s expansion, first near her home in Pleasant Valley and, more recently, to a larger space in Salt Point. During that time, she cultivated her spa’s reputation while piecing together her beloved team of 26 – an impressive number for a small business owner. She was on a roll, and she never expected that cancer would slow her down.
A small cystic pimple on her right cheek was her first indication that something was not quite right. It appeared in November 2018 and was unusual for Morris, who is not normally prone to such breakouts. As a precaution, she stopped by her dermatologist’s office for a steroid injection treatment to heal it. When nothing changed in the span of a month, she asked for another treatment. Ten months later, the pimple was still there.
Morris had the bump removed from her face on December 11, 2019.
“[My doctor] said that it was nothing to worry about but that he would be sending it to pathology for a biopsy to be sure,” she explains. “On December 26, 2019, he called me with the diagnosis that it was in fact cancer.”
To be specific, the bump was desmoplastic melanoma, a very rare variant that impacts two per one million. Over the next few weeks, Morris dealt with her diagnosis by choosing a treatment plan and making her way to Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center for intensive testing. It was quite the change of pace for the Hudson Valley entrepreneur, who was used to spending her days in the heart of the local beauty industry. Yet even from the outset, she knew that positivity was the only way she’d get through it all.
“I read this post on social media,” she recalls. “When you replace ‘Why is this happening to me? with ‘What is this trying to teach me?’ everything shifts.”
That notion of teaching proved integral for Morris during each step of her battle with cancer. Instead of keeping her treatment private, she opted to share it with her Hudson Valley community as a way to “educate young adults who are still going into the tanning beds and not protecting themselves from the harmful rays of the sun,” she says.
With the help of her husband, she started with a video of her prepping for her first PET scan. She had only ever had an MRI before, so she wasn’t sure what to expect. Yet she realized that others likely had questions about the process as well, so she wanted to make her journey known. Day by day, she progressed through her battle, undergoing a CAT scan of her neck and two needle biopsies of suspicious lymph nodes. Finally, she received confirmation that the cancer did not spread to anywhere else in her body. After a resection surgery to remove the impacted tissue, she followed it up with a reconstructive surgery a week later.
“Although I am fortunate that this had not spread anywhere other than my face, I will always be reminded, each time I look in the mirror, of the consequences of unprotected exposure to the sun,” she says, referring to the scar that graces her right cheek. It’s that scar, and the memories attached to it, that kept her grounded when, a mere four weeks after her reconstructive survey, she made the decision to temporarily close Marion SalonSpa four days before Governor Cuomo mandated that all New York barbershops, hair and nail salons, and spas close to help combat the spread of COVID-19.
While Marion Salonspa is on temporary hiatus, Morris, who turns 60 in May, remains optimistic. Her fight with cancer taught her that it’s OK not to know all the answers all the time.
“There is so much that cannot be answered at this moment,” she observes. “We just need to stay positive and think, ‘spring is here, and we will recover.’ I’m a survivor!”