#236 – Surviving Breast Cancer and Getting Sober with Jenn Nelson


Jenn Nelson is a breast cancer survivor and sober woman. She joins Veronica, and they discuss her denial of her alcohol use, finding out about her breast cancer at age 33, and what made the difference to her sobriety.

Listen to the episode now:

Follow Us for FREE: Apple Podcasts | Android | Spotify | Google Podcasts | RSS


Watch the episode now:

about this episode

“I would love to say, ‘Oh, I quit drinking because I had cancer.’ That was not the case. It’s so hard to get sober and give up alcohol even in a healthy space.” – Jenn Nelson

Research has shown a very strong link between alcohol consumption and cancer. Compared to women who don’t drink at all, women who have three alcoholic drinks per week have a 15% higher risk of breast cancer. Experts estimate that the risk of breast cancer goes up another 10% for each additional drink.

Today I’m joined by Jenn Nelson to talk about the link between breast cancer and alcohol.

Jenn Nelson was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 33. Shockingly little information was given to her about the risks of alcohol use and its link to breast cancer despite having a family history and early age diagnosis. Removing alcohol from her life was a bumpy road; Veronica helped her uncover and heal the reasons for her drinking and become a confident, soulful sober person.

Jenn’s story is one of resilience, self-discovery, and personal growth, and I’m excited to share it with you.

In this episode, Jenn and I discuss:

  • Jenn’s experience of being diagnosed with breast cancer at a young age
  • The importance of early screening
  • The strong link between alcohol and breast cancer
  • Misinformation surrounding alcohol consumption during cancer treatment.
  • Jen’s journey to sobriety and the struggle to give up alcohol
  • The decision to have a double mastectomy
  • Statistics on alcohol consumption and the inability to moderate for individuals with alcohol problems
  • Challenges with non-drinking recommendations
  • Building a new life and community without alcohol
  • Advice for women newly diagnosed with breast cancer

key highlights

The Importance of Early Screening

Jenn’s journey began with a breast cancer diagnosis at the age of 33 during a routine screening. With a family history of breast cancer, this news was not entirely unexpected, but it was still a shock. Despite the initial fear, Jenn credits early screening for catching her cancer early, especially considering she had a rare and aggressive form of the disease.

She was fortunate to have access to top-notch medical care in the Seattle area, which she surrendered to, trusting the process and the professionals guiding her through it.


Alcohol and Cancer: A Missing Conversation

During her treatment, Jenn noticed a significant gap in the discussion around alcohol and its connection to cancer. The only mention she found was a small section in a pamphlet she received. Even more surprising, her doctors told her she could continue drinking if she wanted to, despite undergoing chemotherapy and radiation.

Before her diagnosis, Jen’s alcohol use had escalated as a way to cope with the stress and isolation of her job. She would come home and drink alone, often consuming a bottle of wine. This pattern continued during her treatment, as she felt she had been given the mental permission to continue drinking.


The Road to Sobriety

Jen’s journey to sobriety began four years ago when she started working with me. Before that, she tried quitting her own for about two and a half years. She found the four-month program immensely helpful, and it brought about significant changes in her life. It helped her understand how her childhood experiences were impacting her current life and allowed her to address and work through those issues. This led to a significant reduction in her drinking, with long periods of sobriety.


The Struggles and Triumphs of Sobriety

Despite her progress, Jenn admits that she still struggled with white-knuckling and not being fully transparent about her sobriety with others. Being in a relationship with someone who had their own drinking problem also made it challenging for her to stay sober consistently. She also began to realize that alcohol was disconnecting her from her true self and causing her misery.


Building a New Life and Community

Jen’s journey towards sobriety led her to let go of partying friends and find deep and authentic connections in the sober community. For her, it was essential to build new relationships and accept that some people from her past would not be on this path with her.


Personal Growth and Self-Discovery

For anyone dealing with a cancer diagnosis, Jenn suggests taking it day by day and advocating for oneself in terms of healthcare. She encourages seeking second opinions and understanding different treatment options.

resources mentioned

Resources for You

Never miss another episode!

Get the sober life you've been longing for. Start by subscribing and we will deliver new podcast episodes as soon as they are released.

We hate spam too. See our Privacy Policy