Skip to main content

School principal who inspired many throughout cancer fight has died

Melissa Zahn was diagnosed at the age of 27.

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.

Next Up

Nicholas Kraus

Man sentenced for fatally striking woman during Uptown protest

Nicholas Kraus, 36, of St. Paul drove into a protest in Uptown last year, killing Deona Marie Knajdek.

Flickr - police lights squad siren - Edward Kimmel

Fleeing suspect crashes into vehicle in Woodbury, 2 injured

The crash occurred Friday afternoon after a pursuit with Woodbury police.

Screen Shot 2022-11-26 at 2.34.44 PM

Yes, that's MN native Jenny Taft in a State Farm commercial

Jenny Taft got her broadcasting career started in Minneapolis in 2011.

crime scene tape - police tape

23-year-old woman critical after shooting in Plymouth

A 23-year-old woman was shot Friday night in Plymouth.

white Christmas

2 MN towns among most 'magical' winter locations in the country

The list was compiled by Trips Discover and published earlier this month.

Screen Shot 2022-11-26 at 8.27.12 AM

St. Olaf football player charged after fatal crash in Chicago

The 18-year-old is accused of speeding and going the wrong way when he crashed into a vehicle that may have been attempting to flee police.

Screen Shot 2022-11-26 at 7.41.18 AM

Woman 34 weeks pregnant injured by drunk driver in Cottage Grove

The 49-year-old suspected of DUI was booked into jail around 1:30 a.m. Saturday.


2 dead, 5 injured in Thanksgiving Day crash near Alexandria

The crash involved two people from Alexandria and five from Bloomington.

Screen Shot 2022-11-25 at 6.44.11 PM

Lengthy standoff in Prior Lake ends late Friday night

The suspect allegedly assaulted an officer outside Kwik Trip, fled and broke into a home.

snow - 12-10-21 - Joe Nelson - 5

Accumulating snow possible in Twin Cities next week

The storm system could arrive in the Tuesday-Wednesday timeframe.

Target store snow

With Black Friday barely underway, Target reveals Cyber Monday deals

Plans for the two-day sale were revealed Friday morning.

Screen Shot 2022-11-25 at 9.37.25 AM

Man waves replica assault weapon at drivers in downtown Minneapolis

The alarming incident was spotted by the new MPD chief, Brian O'Hara.


Meet the Minnesotan sharing her fight with breast cancer to inspire others

Melissa Zahn was diagnosed with breast cancer at only 27. But she's not letting it get in the way of her dreams.

Man who married wife in 'Bachelor' style contest at MOA dies

Dave Weinlick hit the headlines with his unconventional wedding to Elizabeth Runze in 1998.

Boy who brings donuts to nation's cops visits Twin Cities

The 10-year-old has visited 27 states in 2 years.