Day 549: If This Is What Kills Me, At Least I Lived a Good Life


August 4th, 2022

26 mins 34 secs

Season 1

Your Hosts

About this Episode

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 before 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.

If someone you love has cancer, or any chronic illness that transforms their life, Kristen’s advice is an important reminder to give them grace and time, and don’t forget to treat them like a normal person while remaining sensitive to what has changed.

What’s next for Breast Cancer Stories?


While there are no more surgeries and no more treatment, our mission to help others going through the shock of diagnosis and treatment continues. Stay tuned for the launch of our 2nd season in August 2022 as Kristen becomes the host and a new story begins with Natasha Curry, a palliative care nurse practitioner at San Francisco General Hospital.

While in Malawi on a Doctors Without Borders mission in 2021, Natasha’s 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. One painful biopsy later, Natasha found out she had cancer; in one life-changing moment, the nurse became the patient.

Listen to the Season 2 trailer

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Meet Kristen’s doctors: surgical oncologist Dr. Louis Rivera, hematologist and oncologist Dr. Sonia Ali, plastic surgeon Dr. Salvatore Pacella, and radiation oncologists Dr. Anuradha Koka and Dr. Kenneth T. Shimizu.

About Breast Cancer Stories

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, mastectomy & breast reconstruction, radiation, and whatever happens after that.

In 2020, Kristen moved from Austin to San Diego to be near family and 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.

From her breast cancer diagnosis, through chemotherapy, breast reconstruction, and radiation, we experience each new milestone as it happens. This podcast is about what happens when you have breast cancer, told in real time.

Host and Executive Producer: Eva Sheie
Co-Host: Kristen Vengler
Editor and Audio Engineer: Daniel Croeser
Theme Music: Them Highs and Lows, Bird of Figment
Production Assistant: Mary Ellen Clarkson
Cover Art Designer: Shawn Hiatt

Breast Cancer Stories is a production of The Axis.