From Nurse to Cancer Patient and Back: MSK Nurse Practitioner Jaclyn Stout

Jakki Stout stands in her white coat and holds a sign for the nurses’ suite that was named after her.

Jakki Stout, MSK nurse practitioner and former MSK breast cancer patient, has a heroic message of recovery and hope.

It’s easy to see that nurse practitioner Jaclyn Stout has a true passion for nursing.

Jakki, as she’s called, is a skilled and compassionate caregiver who’s been at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSK) for 10 years. She loves her work caring for surgery patients recovering from bladder, prostatekidney, or testicular cancer. “As a bedside nurse and now as a nurse practitioner, I’ve had two of my dream jobs,” says Jakki, who is FNP-BC, PCCN, and OCN certified.

Getting Diagnosed With Cancer, as a Cancer Nurse Herself

But Jakki, 33, also brings something else to the job — hard-won wisdom. When she was just 28 years old, she was diagnosed with breast cancer and discovered firsthand what it’s like to be in a cancer patient’s shoes. She still remembers the day five years ago when she got the results of the biopsy. “It started this journey that has been the most interesting, rewarding, and challenging of my life. I never imagined it could happen to me.”

The experience changed her perspective as a nurse, she says. “It shed a new light on what it was like to be a patient.”

Jakki’s Support During Cancer Treatment From Nursing Colleagues and Friends

From the start, Jakki says, MSK colleagues and friends were at her side. “I really, really relied on my nursing friends.” She was diagnosed with stage 2B invasive breast cancer (estrogen receptor-positive, progesterone-positive, and HER2-positive). A young woman, she wanted to preserve her fertility. So MSK referred her to an outside specialist to freeze her eggs. Then came the treatment: chemotherapy, a mastectomy, and targeted immunotherapy. Her family was loving and supportive, but she says her fellow nurses carried her through in ways only they could, letting her express raw emotions and feel fatigue. They gave her a safe space that allowed her to just be a patient.

Jakki, during treatment and wearing a chemotherapy cold cap, is surrounded by fellow nurses.

Jakki (center), in treatment, with MSK nurses Kara Freedman, CNS (left), and Kristin McCormack, RN (right), at her side.

A big part of Jakki’s work as a nurse practitioner is helping hospital patients who have had major cancer surgery meet all the milestones to go home safely, and as quickly as possible. “Recovery really happens at home for the patient,” she says. What she knows now from personal experience is that the key factor to a good outcome for patients is good support at home.

“I was able to get through everything because I had such a strong support system with my family and friends,” she recalls. “You need people around you who are going to be there for you emotionally, physically, and mentally.”

Before her patients are discharged, Jakki makes sure they plan for ways to navigate their post-op period at home — just like she did — from grocery shopping to walking the dog to making a cup of tea. “One of the fundamental things I learned during my own recovery from cancer is the importance of having people that care about you and love you, to help you get through the challenges of daily life.”

Today, Jakki is cancer free with no evidence of disease and has no problem sharing her cancer story with patients — when she thinks it might help. But she never wants the focus to be on her. “I’m here to care for them,” she says. “It’s something I’ve gone through, but I’ve gone through it. I’m back in action, working, and taking care of others.”

As a Cancer Survivor, Jakki Now Offers More to Patients and Fellow Nurses

Jakki’s unique insights as a patient are now benefiting her fellow nurses, who often reach out to her for guidance on how best to support their friends and loved ones recently diagnosed with cancer. “It makes me happy that at least if I had to go through that, I can be a resource to help other people,” she says.

Jakki stands with Al Roker and a crowd of nurses and others.

The ‘Today’ show’s Al Roker honored Jakki with a special lounge for MSK nurses in her name. 

Jakki’s inspiring message of hope, courage, and support has already reached millions of people. Her recovery from breast cancer, her joy in her work, and her warm friendships with fellow nurses inspired NBC News’ Today show to celebrate her as part of its Heroes Week in 2023. The beautiful tribute ended with anchor Al Roker coming to MSK to surprise her with news that a special nurses’ lounge at MSK will be designated in her honor.

For Jakki, whose todays are filled with happiness, health, and laughter, and who has met cancer on both front lines — as a nurse and a patient — her message to MSK patients and those who support them is clear: “There’s always a light at the end of the tunnel. I was a patient, and I came back. And my life continued after cancer. I was able to be even better than I was before.”