Published on August 15, 2022

Young teacher fighting breast cancer grateful for local health care

Portrait of Stephanie DeYoung

It was fall of 2021, the DeYoung family of five from Chaska was busy enjoying all of the seasonal activities fall has to offer and had just headed back to school, including Stephanie, a teacher in Waconia. She had recently stopped nursing the third and final addition to their family. She credits nursing with making her very aware of things going on with her body when she noticed a lump in her breast.

At first, Stephanie felt like she may be overreacting, but she had a gut feeling that was telling her not to hesitate, so she immediately scheduled an appointment with her primary care physician. Upon examining Stephanie, her Lakeview Clinic doctor ordered a mammogram and breast ultrasound at Ridgeview’s Imaging department.

A diagnosis filled with a whirlwind of emotions

In October, Stephanie received the news that no young, healthy 33-year-old expects—a stage III breast cancer diagnosis. Suddenly, Stephanie found herself experiencing the most emotional whirlwind time of her life, yet she was impressed with how everything was coordinated for her, which removed a bit of the stress.

“The breast care coordinator at Ridgeview called me within an hour or two of receiving my diagnosis from the radiologist. She scheduled my appointment with the oncologist and with the surgeon. She set up all my appointments—everything was just put in place for me,” Stephanie explained.

Going forward, everything happened quickly. In just a couple of weeks, Stephanie had a chemo port placed, additional biopsies in her lymph nodes and was scheduled for six rounds of chemotherapy, followed by a double mastectomy in March 2022. After her mastectomy, Stephanie had radiation, more chemo and now continues with a “lighter chemo” scheduled every three weeks until the end of the year.

Dozens of appointments, all in Waconia

“Every stage of care I received, I never had to leave the area—from my double mastectomy to my chemo and scans, everything was done in Waconia. I can’t say enough about how huge that has been especially being a mom with a young family at home,” Stephanie shared. “And the partnerships in my community—Ridgeview, Lakeview, Minneapolis Radiation Oncology and Minnesota Oncology—are such a great collaboration, I never felt like any pieces were missing.”

“I felt like I was getting over-the-top care and was completely blown by the empathy I received. There were appointments I had to go to alone due to Covid-19 protocols, but I never felt alone. The nurses and radiologists at Ridgeview understood and they stepped in when I needed extra support,” she added.

No family history or genetic factors

Stephanie has no family history of breast cancer and has since completed genetic testing, which determined she does not have any genetic predisposition to it either. “I am just one of the unlucky ones, unfortunately,” Stephanie said.

According to the American Cancer Society, only five to 10 percent of breast cancers are hereditary, which makes scheduling your annual mammogram each year after the age of 40 crucial for early detection. Breast cancer typically has no symptoms when the tumor is small; the most common physical sign is a painless lump.

Stephanie stresses the importance of routine breast self-exams, mammograms and advocating for yourself. “If you feel something is not right, take that first step to make the appointment to go in. You know your body best. Don't ever feel like you're overreacting,” Stephanie shared.

Schedule your mammogram at one of four convenient Ridgeview locations today.