Being diagnosed with cancer at the age of twenty-three would be world-shattering for anyone, but for Kris Hallenga it was an opportunity to change how Britain dealt with breast cancer. Told she likely only had two years to live Kris set off to change Britain’s relationship with breast cancer forever. Kris looks back at her experience and realises that ‘I’m great’. An assertion no one can question. Her story and experience was a vital turning point in giving breast cancer the boot.
To say Kris has been pivotal in raising awareness of breast cancer in the UK and changing a generation of women would be an understatement. Without the efforts of Kris and her twin sister, Maren, the National coordination to fight breast cancer would pale in comparison to what exists today. Without a shadow of a doubt, the pair should go down as two of Britain’s most enduring women.
The Struggle She Faced
Kris was misdiagnosed twice by GPs when she showcased symptoms of breast cancer in the form of a lump in 2009. At twenty-three, it was simply believed to be symptoms of hormonal changes. The doctors told Kris that as long as she did not recognise it as abnormal it would not be a huge concern.
Kris to this day does not blame the GPs. She laments that the chances of someone her age having breast cancer were so slim that she understands why they were not too concerned about the symptoms. She recalls how she had no idea of the severity of her condition because she ‘wasn’t touching my boobs at all. I didn’t know anything about them.’ This aspect of Kris’ early struggle become one of Coppafeel!’s main focuses.
Kris’ mother was concerned. Their family history of early breast cancer prompted her to get Kris tested as soon as possible. Her mother knew Kris might have the same condition that her grandmother had. Being so young Kris had to rely on appointment cancellations to get a consultation. This showcases the difficulties that were presented to young women. It was perceived as almost impossible that they could be suffering from breast cancer.
When Kris was finally diagnosed it was discovered the cancer was also present in her spine. Having secondary cancer immediately altered how Kris was going to receive care, they would have to carry out palliative care to combat the immense pain she now had in her back. Kris’ details how she had to go through radiotherapy on her spine ‘just to be able to walk without crying’.
For many, dealing with spinal and breast cancer would kill any sense of motivation, for Kris it gave her something to fight for. A secret that she had to communicate to the youth of Britain. Kris wanted Britain to start talking about their breasts. She wanted to ensure no one else had to share her experience. She turned her pain and frustration into a movement that helps thousands to this day.
Coppafeel! And Starting Conversations
In 2009 while battling cancer and radiotherapy Kris started the charity Coppafeel! with three goals in mind. To raise awareness of breast cancer and its symptoms, to encourage young people to check their pecs and breasts regularly, and to support and empower those fighting the disease.
Kris wanted to showcase that you can suffer from breast cancer but still enjoy life, still connect with loved ones. She wanted to communicate to them that having cancer was not the end of anything, but simply the start of fighting something that you can beat.
Utilising flash mobs and projecting cancer statistics onto Parliament Kris was able to generate a new conversation surrounding breast cancer. She popularised the movement by showing battling cancer did not have to be all doom and gloom.
The symptoms of breast cancer and how to recognise them has been added to the British curriculum thanks to Coppafeel!’s campaigning. No longer would the identifying symptoms of breast cancer be a secret, they would become common knowledge.
Thanks to her efforts Coppafeel! became the third most recognised cancer charity in the UK. She was also awarded a Pride of Britain award after being jointly nominated by Cancer Research UK. Kris’ achievements and awards prove how vital she is in the Battle against cancer in the UK. After years of fighting and being the figurehead of Coppafeel! Kris decided to step away and embrace a quieter and slower-paced life.
In 2017 Kris stepped down as CEO of Coppafeel! She wanted to move to Cornwall to spend more time with her twin sister Maren and to write her ‘eulogy’ Glittering a Turd. Kris now enjoys morning dips in the freezing Newquay waters and thinking of all those she has been able to help along the way. Kris is now taking time to reflect on her past, to finally have a moment to sit back and think of it all.
She speaks about how it should not take something such as cancer to do something extraordinary with your life. Kris wants us to celebrate those who are unquestionably good and amazing even if they have not endured a struggle such as hers. Being able to change the world and be unflinchingly yourself is what we should all strive for.
During the writing process of Glittering a Turd, Kris realised that creating Coppafeel! and raising awareness of breast cancer was her way of dealing with her struggle. She describes it as a form of displacement therapy, separating her mind from the struggle by focusing on a pragmatic and positive plan. Kris thanks her friends and family for supporting her and ensuring she was able to reach her vision.
Kris’ utilised the struggle she faced and turned it into something that supports thousands of women across the UK. She transformed the lowest part of her life into a shining example of what can be achieved with communication and cooperation in the British community. Kris is a hero who we should all look to for an example of strength, determination and fun.
For More Information on Breast Cancer and its’ Symptoms Head to:
Breast Cancer Now: https://breastcancernow.org/
Cancer Research UK: https://www.cancerresearchuk.org/about-cancer/breast-cancer