Sometimes, after a wicked storm, a rainbow appears. Stacy Miranda knows that firsthand. Six years ago she was battling invasive ductal carcinoma, triple positive breast cancer, an aggressive, fast-growing form of the disease. Today, she’s living her best life.
Miranda was 34 when she discovered a lump on her breast and brought it to the attention of her doctor. That was the beginning of a journey that included radiation, chemotherapy, Herceptin infusions, and three surgeries.
“Chemo hit me really hard, to the point that I was barely leaving the house and was dependent on others for even the simplest of daily tasks,” says Miranda, 40, who lives in Long Beach.
Her life was upside down. By the time she recovered from a second surgery, more than a year had passed and she was able to return to work, says the teacher at North Shore Middle School in Glen Head. Six months later, she was out of work again for a revision surgery. But, with gratitude, she says, “This past June, I celebrated my five-year cancer-free mark, which I call my ‘rebirth.’”
The metamorphosis was painful.
“At times, I have felt isolated and stripped of my youth, femininity, self-worth, and innocence of good health,” she says. “Just as with most cancer patients, I have had my share of dark days. I was a single woman without children.”
Overall, she remained positive and grateful.
“Cancer has been one of my greatest teachers in life,” she adds. “While it doesn’t define me, it has certainly played a major role in molding me into the woman I am. I feel very lucky to be where I am today.”
While being out of work did eventually make finances tight, she was fortunate to have support from friends and family, as well as extremely good health insurance. Miranda turned to organizations that help breast cancer patients.
What sustained her during the most difficult period of her life?
“I tried everything I possibly could,” she recalls. ”You name it, I probably tried it. Every stage of the journey required different coping mechanisms and means of support. I think a healthy mindset is always key, though.
“It basically came down to gratitude and acceptance,” she continues. “That helped me stay positive and keep the faith that it was a temporary hardship that would lead to good things later on.”
When she was overwhelmed, she went into therapy and leaned on her support network. Physical therapy was also helpful both mentally and physically.
“I went to the only breast cancer physical therapy program on Long Island, Full Circle Physical Therapy,” she says.
To be sure, after the storm there is a rainbow. Although she has some residual side effects from treatment from her current medication, she’s now in very good health. Now, she says, “I am unapologetically myself, living from my heart, and committed to living life to the fullest.”
Living as a cancer survivor presents challenges, but it can create opportunities. Miranda is involved in two nonprofit organizations: First Descents, a group providing adventure trips for young adults impacted by cancer, and Climb For Hope, an organization that raises money for breast cancer and multiple sclerosis research through adventure challenges.
Through all her adventures, such as whitewater kayaking, rock climbing, hiking and mountaineering, she has a new sense of empowerment. She has also shared her cancer story through public speaking engagements.
“If simply by sharing my experiences I can help others, I am honored to do so,” she says. “Giving back while also challenging myself has been so very purposeful and healing.”
Miranda says her first fundraising adventure challenge was climbing the summit of Mount Adams in Washington.
“When I reached that summit, I cried out in astonishment that my mind and body could achieve such a feat,” she recalls. “From climbing the mountains of breast cancer to the mountains of the Earth. I went from barely being able to walk down the block to climbing the second highest peak in the Pacific Northwest!”