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Daily Inspiration: Meet Katy Tessman

Today we’d like to introduce you to Katy Tessman, a mom | author | singer-songwriter | breast cancer survivor.

Hi Katy, can you start by introducing yourself? We’d love to learn more about how you got to where you are today?
Books and Music have always taken center stage in my life. As a child, weekly trips to the local library with my mom ignited my love for reading. Singing in choirs and performing in musical theater productions sparked my love for the stage. Combining my love of writing and performing, I earned a BA in Speech Communication from Minnesota State University – Moorhead. I started songwriting in 1993 and performed at venues in the Twin Cities and throughout the region for nearly a decade. I went on two national tours and released two albums which received accolades from fans and critics alike.

When I became a mom in 2003 (and again in 2006) I paused my music career and turned my focus to raising my two sons. Together, the three of us would visit the library, read stories to each other, and attend concerts by family-friendly bands. I taught Music Together (an early childhood music program) and performed at my sons’ school for special assemblies and classroom concerts. In addition, I directed the summer reading program at their elementary school. Both my sons have proven to be talented music makers — from piano and percussion, to electric guitar and electronic music production.

After a twenty-year break, I am songwriting again and back on stage performing solo and with my band. And the best news of all is that my first-born son is my lead guitar player. There’s always some kind of music pouring out of the Tessman home and it fills my heart with joy.

On Mother’s Day in 2022, I released my first single, “Piece by Piece (the best news of all)” a lullaby I wrote for my sons. We collaborated on the production of this song; it is about surviving breast cancer and reflecting on everything I have to live for. Currently, I’m in the studio working on recording an album and plan to release it in early 2023.

Another project I’m working on is a lyric book for my new song “Hero Now Crowned.” This song and book is a tribute to everyone who has overcome hardships — whether it be cancer, addiction, anxiety and depression. My goal is to raise people up and remind them they are amazing.

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
My life has had some bumps and curves. After my first mammogram, in October 2009, I was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer requiring me to have a double mastectomy (which happened to be on my fortieth birthday), chemotherapy, and reconstruction over the course of a year. Mothering while battling breast cancer was the hardest challenge I have ever faced as my sons were only ages 3 and 6 at the time of my cancer diagnosis. My wonderful and supportive parents moved in to help me keep my household running. Needless to say, the five of us are very close.

During my treatment, I tried to find a book I could read to my children to help them understand what was happening to me. I wanted a book that instilled hope and explained the basics of cancer. I never found that book. When I was explaining each step of my surgeries and treatments to my sons, I discovered a theme: cancer is a bad weed in my garden.

In 2013, I authored a children’s book entitled “Our Mama is a Beautiful Garden” and in 2018, a second edition was published. Because of the importance of getting my book into the hands of families who are faced with this awful disease, copies of my book have been purchased as donations to local cancer centers. I am very proud my book continues to help so many families. I have been honored by the Minnesota Women’s Press who named me a CHANGEMAKER and the book has won two national awards. In addition to being a mom, author, and singer-songwriter, being a breast cancer survivor has become a part of my identity.

Alright, so let’s switch gears a bit and talk business. What should we know about your work?
As an author and singer-songwriter, I tend to take an optimistic approach when I write. I like to tell stories about life using the wisdom I’ve gained through breast cancer survival, heartbreak, and motherhood. My performance style is straight-from-the-heart (scars and all) and my shows move passionately over diverse emotional and musical terrain. I aim to leave audience members feeling uplifted and inspired.

So maybe we end on discussing what matters most to you and why?
What matters to me? Hope, optimism, and looking for the silver lining. Keeping this perspective has gotten me through challenges and hardships throughout my life. I strive to encourage others to find this frame of mind through my songwriting and books.

Being diagnosed with breast cancer was like falling down a deep dark hole. The heroic guts and glitz my sons displayed during my cancer journey is profoundly inspiring. As their mom … and author and singer-songwriter … I want to help people (of all ages) find the strength and courage they need during hopeless times. I also want to inspire others to write, sing, and share their stories with their communities and the world.

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