Behind the Breakthroughs
The Your Stories Podcast

Hear candid conversations between people conquering cancer – patients, their family and friends, and doctors and researchers working to help us all.

Will and Kristin Flanary
Will Flanary
Behind the Breakthroughs
The Couple Who Laughs Together
On #MedTwitter (that’s Twitter’s virtual lunch table for med students, doctors, and researchers), Kristin and Will Flanary are the First Couple of Comedy. Will, known as @DGlaucomflecken on the internet and comedy stages, Dr. Flanary to his ophthalmology patients, and Dad to the two children he shares with Kristin (@LadyGlaucomflecken), is a two-time testicular cancer survivor; he also survived cardiac arrest – all before age 35. What is so funny about three life-threatening episodes and the caregiving involved with cancer? The Flanarys (aka the Glaucomfleckens) tell Dr. Mark Lewis.

In Sickness and In Health 

Kristin and Will began their marriage tackling problems unchartered by most 20-something couples: fertility preservation, survival support groups, and stacks of confusing medical bills.  

Will was diagnosed with testicular cancer at 25. 

"I was only a med student, but I still knew that my testicle wasn't supposed to try to multiply," said Will.

Though the cancer was treated with surgery, four years later a tumor was discovered in his other testicle, and the recovery - physically and mentally - was not as easy. 

“I was like, you've got to be kidding me. There's no way that I won the lottery twice here," said Will. "But no money, I didn't get any money! This is the bad lottery."

Will shares in detail how his experiences made him aware of the confusion patients face dealing with insurance claims and medical expenses - things he'd never realized as a physician - and talks about the loneliness younger patients often face. 

“Cancer in your 20s is a pretty isolating experience because you spend so much time in waiting rooms and you look around and mostly see people in their 60s, 70s, 80s,” said Will.  

For Kristin, supporting her husband through cancer and cardiac arrest brought hard lessons in the side-effects of caregiving. She explains why she considers herself a co-survivor. 

“I wasn't the primary patient, but this event was happening to me, too,” said Kristin. “There's stress, there's lack of sleep. There's all these things that go along when you have a medical trauma.” 

Will credits Kristin’s CPR to the tune of "Staying Alive" with saving his life during cardiac arrest. Kristin shares how Will’s time as a patient has taught her to advocate for herself and have hard conversations with their children.  

“Especially as a woman, I think we are socialized to put everybody else's needs before our own, to be small, to be quiet. And my advice is throw all that in the trash can,” she said. 

In On the Joke 

While Kristin has found her calling advocating for caregivers, Will has found his way back to the stage as a comedian. 

“I like to say that he tells jokes, and I have a sense of humor,” said Kristin. “He made a lot of really dark jokes about cancer that people weren't sure if they were allowed to laugh at.” 

"I gotta say, it took a lot of ball to get out there and tell those jokes," quipped Will. "But it helped me, it really did."

Before medical school, Will performed stand-up comedy, but stopped when life got busy with career and family. Living through health scares of his own, he discovered making others laugh was therapeutic. 

“I just felt that urge to go back and kind of address this and deal with this in any way I could,” said Will. “And for me, that's my main defense mechanism is going out there and telling jokes and processing it in the best way.” 

Humor helps both Will and Kristin live in the moment, without reliving the scary episodes of their past or stressing about the future. 

“Right after I got home from the hospital, it's just…relief. It's like, wow, I'm still here,” said Will. “And then you have these moments where you're playing with your kids or your children do something funny or they say something funny or something cute, or you have a nice moment where you're out with your family and you think, oh, I almost wasn't here for this. I can't believe I get to be here.” 

Added Kristin: “And then the contrast between what you expect should be happening and what is actually happening is just so ridiculous that it’s just...funny.” 

The purpose of this podcast is to educate and to inform. The podcast is provided on the understanding that it does not constitute medical or other professional advice or services. It is no substitute for professional care by a doctor or other qualified medical professional and is not intended for use in the diagnosis or treatment of individual conditions. Guests who speak in a podcast express their own opinions, experience, and conclusions. Neither Conquer Cancer, the ASCO Foundations, nor any of its affiliates endorses, supports, or opposes any treatment option or other matter discussed in a podcast. The mention of any product, service, organization, activity, or therapy on a podcast should not be construed as an endorsement. View disclosures for Mark Lewis. 
Your Stories

Kristin is the caregiver. Will is the patient. Despite two cancer diagnoses and one cardiac arrest, this young couple intends to have the last laugh as they share their unique stories.