STACY MOUTAFIS: Mind Over Matter by Christine Lynn Harvey

Stacy found the "backdoor" of figure competitions after she had overcome a rare bone disease and decided to become a personal trainer. While her name might not rank in the top-three, her positive attitude does. She suffered from a knee injury that was made worse by her dealing with Giant Cell Tumor, a very aggressive form of cancer that nearly ate her whole femur bone away. After being told she would never do anything in the way of fitness again, she pushed herself and underwent extensive rehabilitation, got her certification from the ISSA and went on to compete in the New England division of the Fitness America Figure competition in Boston. (For more info, visit: www. fitnessamerica.com, or fitnessatlantic.com). Stacy's cancer has been in remission for six years now and she has had 7 reconstructive knee surgeries. Stacy is living proof that the power of the mind has enormous healing powers over very challenging physical circumstances. But it wasn't always that way. Stacy says she stayed in bed for a year after hearing her diagnosis. "I didn't want to go out; I didn't want any of my friends to come and visit me," she says. "I was terribly depressed. I turned everyone away from me."

While she still experiences pain, Stacy deals with it through lots of stretching, massage therapy, exercise and her own "positive mind." When she is asked what pulled her out of her funk, she says, "Everybody asks me that. I don't remember. I just woke up one day and decided to try again. I went to the gym and that was it," she says. "I was sick of being sick."

She started physical therapy and the exercise helped her leg feel better. Gradually, she began working out at the gym and started noticing considerable improvement. "It took three years, but it happened. I became a personal trainer afterwards, cause I wanted to help people who feel like I did," she says. Stacy gets her regular check-ups to keep an eye on her cancer and every time, she is given a clean bill of health. This was after being told there was a 40% chance the cancer would return and that she could possibility lose her leg. Today, she is studying to train people with disabilities through the ISSA. She will be helping people with joint problems, arthritis, asthma, cardiac, diabetes, MS, cerebral palsy and other conditions by this fall.

The 26 year-old Stacy grew up in Manorville, NY and graduated from Westhampton High School. She had intended on becoming a police officer, but her physical condition prevented her from passing the physical exam. She worked for an insurance company as a sales manager for a number of years, but what she is doing now with her life, she says she enjoys much more. Stacy says she has read tons of self-help books and among her favorite is Wayne Dwyer. "What I like best about him is that he teaches you how to deal with you. 'Pulling your own strings' is about not blaming anyone or anything for what has happened to you. I'm actually happy that this happened to me cause I don't think I would be who I am today if it did not happen to me," she says. "And I can use it to help other people."

Stacy says that one of the contributing factors that has kept her cancer-free is that she walks away from negative people. She also gains strength from her father, an immigrant from Greece. "My Dad is someone I truly look up to cause he's always been a strong influence in my life. He's one of those people who never give up on anything. He came here with absolutely nothing and he's made such a life for himself."

Stacy listens to country music, prays daily, follows a healthy diet, takes vitamins and abstains from drinking and smoking. Add Carmine, Stacy's dog, to the mix and you have a complete prescription for healing. "He's made me so much happier. People have always told me having an animal makes such an impact. I've never been an animal person and I said I would never have an animal. He's with me everywhere. He's my buddy. It's great. It's also very funny!"

Her words of advice: "Listen to your own music. Make your own music. Do what you want. Go for it. Don't give up!" Stacy thanks her photographer Todd Ganci for helping her with her diet and photography (www.tganci.com) and her very dear boyfriend Ed Curcio who has supported her and helps keep her "sane." Also Kelly Meyers, her physical therapist in Moriches, NY who does a full therapeutic massage and has been a real healer to her. Stacy is currently looking for sponsors to help her with her fitness competitions. For more info, please visit: www.stacymoutafis.com