MINNEAPOLIS -- Trevor Plouffe was a freshman in high school when he heard the life-changing news. His mother, Diane, had been diagnosed with breast cancer.
It rocked Plouffe's world, as his older brother, Marshall, was already off to college, roughly 400 miles away at Sacramento State, leaving the 15-year-old to help care for his mother and his sister, Paige, who is seven years younger.
"It was tough time," Plouffe said. "It was something I never thought could happen to my family. And all of a sudden it's happening to you, and your family and your mother. It was just my mom, my sister and I at home. So we bonded a lot. I was 'the man of the house.'"
Diane faced six grueling months of chemotherapy and six weeks of radiation, but she was able to make it through with her son's help. Meanwhile, she still made it to his baseball games at Crespi Carmelite High School in Encino, Calif., to bring some normalcy to their life and show support for her son.
"It was just a hard time in our life," Diane said. "We had one son going off to college and Trevor was 15 at the time. But he really helped out. His little sister was in fourth or fifth grade and was always helping me out around the house. He declared himself the man of the house. Anything I needed, he helped me. He was just wonderful."
After the rounds of chemotherapy and radiation, Diane was declared cancer-free in late 2002, and she's been in remission since. But the battle with cancer and all that came with it forged an unbreakable bond between mother and son.
"It's just such a good mother-son relationship," she said, fighting back tears. "I'm just so proud of him. He's always been so supportive of me and my other kids. He's always been such a great all-around kid."
The bout with cancer also inspired Diane to use her experience to help others. She was working as a pharmaceutical representative when diagnosed, but she decided to go back to school to get her nursing degree. She worked at several hospitals in Southern California before settling in for the past six years in the oncology department at Henry Mayo Community Hospital in Valencia, Calif.
"I think she has a unique perspective being a nurse and having gone through cancer," Plouffe said. "She's able to help her patients, because she knows what they're going through. She's constantly getting recognized as one of the best nurses in her hospital."
Diane said patients are able to relate to her because they know she went through many of the same things they're dealing with. But she's also known as the proud mom of Trevor Plouffe around the hospital, as she wears her last name on her badge with pride and never misses any of his games with the help of MLB.TV, even during her long shifts at the hospital.
"Because my last name is on my badge, a lot of patients know about Trevor. And of course, I brag, too," Diane said with a laugh. "So it's kind of a topic around the hospital about how Trevor's doing. But the patients know about him and want to follow him."
Plouffe does his part, too, donating items to patients, never turning down his mom when she has a request. He's also been active in several cancer-related charities since joining the Twins, such as Stand Up To Cancer (SU2C), Let's Strike Out Cancer (K Cancer) and Locks of Love.
"It just makes me so proud to see how charitable he is," Diane said. "He likes to help others -- and it's not just about me. He likes to do charity in the name of everybody. It just makes so proud to see the man he's become."
The two talk about three to four times a week. Diane is able to see Trevor, his wife, Olivia, and their first child, Teddy -- who was born July 31 -- more often during the offseason because they live near each other in northern Los Angeles County.
During the season, her work schedule makes it tough, but she makes it to Minnesota at least once a year and is able to get to games when he plays at Anaheim and Oakland. This year, she's coming to Star Wars Night at Target Field on May 19, as the Twins are giving away a special "Plouffe Skywalker" bobblehead.
The bobblehead is a fun reminder how far Plouffe has come with the Twins, as he went from a struggling rookie shortstop in 2010 to one of the club's leaders as its starting third baseman for the past five seasons.
"I love going to Minnesota, and I feel like that's the place for him," Diane said. "He's so happy there playing for the Twins. It makes me happy he's so happy there. I'm just so proud. He's just very gracious to everybody. He doesn't think he's some big superstar. He doesn't act like it in any way shape or form. So that's why I'm so proud of him."