Breast Cancer Stories is about what happens when you have breast cancer, told in real time. Whether you’ve just been diagnosed with breast cancer or love someone who has, this podcast is here to help you through the shock of diagnosis and treatment.
The first season of Breast Cancer Stories follows Kristen Vengler, a 56 year old single empty nester in San Diego, from her diagnosis of hormone positive breast cancer through chemotherapy, double mastectomy & breast reconstruction, radiation, and whatever happens after that. In 2020, Kristen moved from Austin to San Diego to start her life over after a life-shattering workplace trauma. A few months later she had that terrifying moment in the shower we all hope we never have.
The second season follows Natasha Curry, a palliative care nurse practitioner at San Francisco General Hospital, throughout her experience of going from being a nurse to a patient after being diagnosed with breast cancer. Like Kristen, Natasha was working to overcome a massively traumatic event at the time of her diagnosis. Natasha was in Malawi on a Doctors Without Borders mission in 2021 when her husband of 25 years announced in a text message that he was leaving. She returned home, fell into bed for a few weeks, and eventually with the help of her friends she pulled herself together and went back to work.
A few months later when she discovered an almond-sized lump in her armpit, she did everything she tells her patients not to do and dismissed it, or wrote it off as a “fat lump." Months went by before Natasha finally got a mammogram, but radiology saw nothing in either breast. It was the armpit lump that caught their attention. Next step was an ultrasound, where the lump was clearly visible. One painful biopsy later, Natasha found out she had cancer; in one life-changing moment, the nurse became the patient.
September 22nd, 2022 | Season 2 | 32 mins 41 secs
dating with cancer, dexamethasone, promethazine
Natasha attempts a somewhat normal life by continuing to work and dating someone new. But behind the scenes, things are unraveling. She receives news about the alarming masses on her liver and thyroid. After her second chemo, unusual and disturbing side effects lead her to wonder how many other unexpected surprises are headed her way.
September 15th, 2022 | Season 2 | 36 mins 13 secs
acid reflux, chemotherapy, esophageal cancer, medical marijuana, protonix
Horrific acid reflux is keeping Natasha up at night. None of the remedies recommended by her doctors make a difference, except for handy dandy marijuana. Radiology detects spots on her liver and thyroid and calls her in for an emergency MRI. If she actually has stage four, her chemo treatment is completely wrong.
September 8th, 2022 | Season 2 | 35 mins 1 sec
carboplatin, dignicap, her2-positive, herceptin, oncologist, port placement, taxotere
On the eve of her first chemotherapy infusion, Natasha hauls a pile of new prescriptions home and questions why so much harm must be done to be “healthy” again.
September 1st, 2022 | Season 2 | 40 mins 19 secs
adenocarcinoma, mammogram, mri, pathologist, pet scan, radiologist, san francisco general hospital
As a nurse, it was easy for Natasha to think of all the things the almond-sized lump in her armpit could be other than cancer, so she moved along with her busy life. When she realized it was not going away, her doctor sent her for a mammogram.
August 25th, 2022 | Season 2 | 24 mins 47 secs
clinical psychology, journalism, nurse practitioner, san francisco general
While leading a Doctors Without Borders mission in Malawi, Natasha’s husband of 25 years blindsided her by ending their marriage in a text message. She returned home, fell into bed for a few weeks, and eventually with the help of her friends she pulled herself together and went back to work.
A few months later when she discovered an almond-sized lump in her armpit, she did everything she tells her patients not to do and dismissed it, or wrote it off as a “fat lump."
August 4th, 2022 | Season 1 | 26 mins 34 secs
depression, foot pain, mud\wtr, reconstructive surgery
Persistent foot pain caused by chemo forces Kristen to spend hours each day on physical therapy, taping, and stretching her feet at home.
Wowing her friends with her ingenuity, she reveals that flesh-colored socks with the toes cut out are the trick to wearing flip flops to a wedding.
A few weeks after her final reconstructive surgery in a moment of darkness she candidly asks, “if this is what kills me, have I lived a good life?” Answering this question leads her to reflect on just how much her perspective has changed through this experience
July 8th, 2022 | Season 1 | 27 mins 9 secs
anniversary, foot pain, neuropathy, pre-op
On the eve of the final reconstructive surgery, which coincides with the 1-year anniversary of her mastectomy, Kristen reflects on how far she’s come and how many things are different from what she expected.
June 30th, 2022 | Season 1 | 40 mins 4 secs
backtable, chemotherapy, interventional radiologist, mediport, port placement procedures, ports
The list of things to do before starting chemo includes the seemingly ordinary task of getting a “port” or “medi-port.” Get your blood work, pick up groceries, wash the car, get a port… But port placement is actually surgery and being unprepared for the procedure can result in some pretty unpleasant surprises and unexpected pain. Interventional Radiologist Dr. Aaron Fritts explains the procedure and answers our questions.
June 23rd, 2022 | Season 1 | 18 mins 35 secs
breast reconstruction, hormone blockers, neuropathy
Six weeks after the (evil) expanders are out and new 700cc “porn-star-sized” breast implants are in, Kristen shares what it feels like to be on the other side of the painfully long process of stretching her skin to make room for the permanent replacements.
June 15th, 2022 | Season 1 | 37 mins 46 secs
book review, mammography, nurses, nursing, tamoxifen, ultrasound
As a nurse, you never truly understand the level of terror your patients are experiencing until you become one yourself. New York Times best-selling author Theresa Brown, RN, shares her breast cancer treatment journey along with details about her new book, “Healing.”
June 13th, 2022 | Season 2 | 6 mins 12 secs
biopsy, lumpectomy, mammogram, san francisco general hospital, ultrasound
Natasha Curry is not your everyday average nurse. As a palliative care nurse practitioner at San Francisco General Hospital, she cares for the poorest and most vulnerable. When she discovered an almond-sized lump in her armpit, she did everything she tells her patients not to do and dismissed it. One painful biopsy later, Natasha found out she had cancer; in one life-changing moment, the nurse became the patient. This is Natasha’s breast cancer story, told in real time.
May 27th, 2022 | Season 1 | 39 mins 52 secs
compression sleeves, cording, lymph nodes, lymphatic drainage, lymphatic massage, lymphatic system, lymphedema, physical therapist
When and if lymph nodes have to be removed in the course of breast cancer treatment, lymphedema is a persistent aftereffect that must be treated and cared for following surgery, sometimes for many years. Special guest and lymphedema specialist Christine Galione, MSPT, CLT is a physical therapist and expert lymphatic massage practitioner at Scripps Memorial La Jolla who has been helping breast cancer patients with lymphedema therapy since 2004.
May 13th, 2022 | Season 1 | 47 mins 21 secs
aloe vera, ana ono, aquaphor, beachbody, mastectomy bra, miaderm, my girls skin care, radiation bra
To help make radiation go a little better, Kristen teams up with guest Jen Delvaux to talk about their radiation experiences and share the little things that made them more comfortable.
April 28th, 2022 | Season 1 | 22 mins 19 secs
ana ono, breast implants, exchange surgery, expanders, post-op, recovery, surgical bra
It’s the day after Kristen’s surgery to replace her expanders with permanent breast implants, and she’s already feeling much better. For the last 33 weeks, Kristen lived with a constant 2-4 pain level from the uncomfortable and awkward expanders. Today her chest looks normal again, even if it will never feel the same.
April 21st, 2022 | Season 1 | 24 mins 44 secs
acid reflux, exchange surgery, implants, side effects, tissue expanders, zometa
It’s the night before Kristen’s implant exchange surgery. After 9 long months, the painful, lopsided tissue expanders will be replaced with silicone gel breast implants and her constant pain will come to an end.
April 8th, 2022 | Season 1 | 34 mins 6 secs
chemo brain, hormone blockers, neuropathy, zometa
Nobody told Kristen just how horrible the side effects from the hormone blockers would be. The neuropathy in her feet causes her to walk like an old woman and she struggles with simple, everyday movement like standing up from the couch or walking up stairs. But you know Kristen. She's not giving up without a fight.