After her first mammogram, in 2009, Katy Tessman Stanoch was diagnosed with breast cancer. She had a double mastectomy on her fortieth birthday, endured eight chemotherapy treatments in 14 weeks, and underwent several reconstruction surgeries. Katy's sons, Louis and Maxwell were only ages 6 and 3 at the time of her diagnosis.

Photo by Alison Lea

The family's love of nature helped Louis and Maxwell understand the changes going on with their mother's body. They visit the Northern woods of Minnesota regularly and volunteer year-round at their local nature center.

Katy is a full-time mom who is an active volunteer at her boys' school and teaches early childhood music family classes. Her husband, David Stanoch, is a musician and educator. Together, Dave and Katy perform and record her original music. Katy has a BA from Minnesota State University Moorhead and has worked as a communications contractor for a variety of businesses in the Twin Cities.


In 2011, Katy was a model for Of Scars, a photo project that explores all the facets of living with the emotional and physical scars of breast cancer.

The Children's Theatre Company in Minneapolis honored Louis and Maxwell in 2011, naming them Young Heroes, recognizing how they faced their mama's breast cancer with the courage only a true-to-life hero has.

In 2012, Katy was the cover girl in Patterson Dental's "Grins for a Good Cause" annual giving program.

Katy and her sons are featured in the 2013 Hope Chest for Breast Cancer Foundation's calendar.

Artist, Barbara Porwit created a larger-than-life painting of Katy as Wonder Woman for her Breast Cancer Superheroes portrait series in 2013.

The Minnesota Women's Press named Katy a 2013 Changemaker in recognition of the positive effect her book has made on women and their families.

October 2014 marked Katy's 5th year of being cancer-free. In celebration,15-year survivor Judi Lundstrom presented Katy with her award winning quilt inspired by "Our Mama Is A Beautiful Garden."