Madison (WKOW) -- Mona Melms is a living miracle.
The 58-year old Madison woman isn't just beating the odds; she's raising the bar on what it means to be a breast cancer survivor.
"34 years ago when I was so sick," Melms said. "I didn't think I'd make it this far at all."
On an Indian summer day, Melms is tying a pink ribbon headband in her brown hair. Scraping back her curls, she's in between teaching an intense mat exercise class and a full cardio ballet weight training lesson.
Decades ago, Melms was given a death sentence. Doctors told her the Stage III breast cancer was spreading. 12 months to live was probably an optimistic prognosis.
"People would come and visit me and just started crying," Melms said.
Melms underwent a cocktail of intense radiation, surgery and a cocktail of experimental chemo at UW Madison's Carbone Center. It nearly killed her.
Harder than the visitors was trying to tell her 2 and 4 year old little ones.
"I didn't think I'd see them [my kids] on their next birthday," said Melms.
But instead of giving up, a few small words began playing over and over in her head.
"There was a mantra that I kept saying to myself," she said. "Defrost your mind, discover your body."
Swarovski crystals balls dangle from window sills two stories above State Street. As the sun beams through the high window panes -- light reflects onto the wooden dance floor.
This is Studio Melt. It's the mother of two's sanctuary. And it's a place where six years ago, Melms opened up her secret to having a zest for life.
The exercise and wellness guru teaches others how to overcome adversity.
"I just really took as an opportunity to survive," Melms said. "I never played the role of the victim."
She says living in the moment is the key to recovery -- and in her case remission.