Stacy Miranda was just 34 when an aggressive, fast-growing cancer turned her world upside down. Chemotherapy took the middle school teacher’s long, pin-straight blonde locks, her breasts and strength and stamina. “I felt stripped of my youth and health overnight,” recalled Stacy, of Long Beach, “and felt that it challenged my femininity and self-worth.”

With the support of her loved ones, friends and medical team, Stacy overcame the stress she experienced from the disease’s effect upon her physical and emotional well-being. Cancer, instead, became a “teacher of invaluable lessons” that helped “strip away the armor” that hid her “authentic self.” “I used to have unrealistic expectations for myself,” she admitted. “But now I’m proud of who I am.”

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Nearly four years have passed since her diagnosis, and now 38, she celebrates a “new normal”: wavy blonde locks (post-chemotherapy hair); self-confidence; inner peace; health; and two birthdays-- her actual birthday,  and June 2, which marks the date she underwent a double mastectomy and considers herself cancer-free. 

Recently, Stacy joined First Descents, a Denver-based nonprofit organization that provides outdoor adventures for young adult cancer “fighters” and survivors. She has already gone kayaking in Oregon and rock climbing upstate.