School principal who inspired many throughout cancer fight has died

Melissa Zahn was diagnosed at the age of 27.
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The Minnesota principal whose battle against cancer inspired so many tragically died on Wednesday.

Melissa Zahn, of Jordan, passed away with her loved ones by her side, her family confirmed. She is survived by her beloved husband Brian and son Henry.

She had been the principal of Sweeney Elementary School, in Shakopee, for three years before becoming the Central Family Center principal this past August.

GoMN featured Zahn's inspirational story in December, as she described her fight since being diagnosed with stage 1 breast cancer in 2011 at the age of just 27.

At the time, Zahn and then fiance Brian had been thinking of starting a family, so she took the steps of having embryos stored.

It turned out to be a good move, because after what she thought was successful treatment, she was dealt the blow in 2014 that the cancer was at stage 4, having spread to her liver.

But a few months later, a co-worker and friend of Zahn's offered to be the couple's gestational carrier. This led to the birth of her beloved son Hank Gerald Zahn – aka Henry – in January 2016.

Throughout her battle with the disease, Zahn's energy and positivity was infectious, leading to her being recognized as one of WCCO's Excellent Educators in 2015.

Last year, Zahn was inspired to share her journey with others, starting a blog called Commit to Conquer, where she writes about the intimate details of what it's like to battle cancer at a young age, and have children through a gestational carrier.

She was also the recipient of a Christmas fundraising drive by our old friends at Go Radio after being nominated by friends and coworkers.

"I want to give someone else hope. Someone else can see that there are other 30-year-olds out there with cancer, who are still living their lives," she told GoMN.

At the time we spoke with her, Zahn's treatments recently increased to multiple times per week, and she had to take a medical leave from her job in order to focus on healing.

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