Q+A with CoppaFeel! founder Kris Hallenga
This month, we’re all about breast cancer awareness. We want to encourage babes to check their boobs, spread the message and support one another.
We got the opportunity to chat to the ultimate inspiration, Kris Hallenga. After discovering she had breast cancer in her early twenties, she went on to found one of the UK’s biggest breast cancer charities, CoppaFeel!.
CoppaFeel! is all about early detection. They run countless campaigns, partnerships and even festivals, all dedicated to get us checking our boobs. Head over to our step-by-step guide to find out how to check your own!
Want to know how to support the cause? We’ve created an exclusive range of clothing and all the profits go to straight to CoppaFeel! Do something good, buy a t-shirt.
Q: Can you tell us about your journey and how CoppaFeel! started?
A: I was 22 when I discovered a lump in my boob. I didn’t know how long it had been there because I was so unaware of how my boobs felt and which lumps and bumps were normal. No one had ever told me to check my boobs. After 3 trips to the GP I was finally diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer – also known as secondary breast cancer, the advanced kind when it’s already spread from the breast to other parts of my body. Whilst having treatment I thought long and hard about why I was so unaware and decided no one else should be in my position, so CoppaFeel! was born.
Q: What advice would you give to someone who feels awkward or uncomfortable about talking about their boobs?
A: We’re born with them, they are a part of you. You’d notice if you had a new spot on your face yet your boobs aren’t getting the same kind of attention. Understanding how your boobs feel normally pre, during and after your period is the only way you’d notice if something wasn’t quite right. Boob checking doesn’t need to be scary, even if you do find an abnormality it’s likely not to be cancer but it’s not worth the risk not checking it out with a GP. The sooner breast cancer is diagnosed, the bigger the chance of long term survival and a future completely free of the disease.
Q: Do you have any tips for people who are struggling to balance a business and their personal life?
A: I seem to have enough energy to be busy doing ALL the things. But that doesn’t mean I don’t have down times. Balancing crazy-ness with calming activities like a long lie in, walks on the beach and seeing friends are the only way I can cope with it all. I think when you’re doing something you care so deeply about, you happily make compromises. Just remember there are people in your life who actually still want to hang out with YOU, not the business you.
Q: What do you feel are the biggest misconceptions when it comes to breast cancer?
A: That it doesn’t happen to young people. It’s rare, and as my case proves, it can! The risk increases with age but if you have breast tissue, you can get breast cancer. It’s also not commonly known that cancer only kills when it’s spread to other parts of your body such as your organs. Treatments allow people to sometimes live really long with the disease but it can never be cured once it’s gone beyond the breast. I’m lucky to still be here when the average survival with late stage is 2-3 years. This is why catching it early, before it has the chance to settle anywhere is, is so important.
Q: Who is your female inspiration?
A: My twin! She’s a legend. She’s got incredible strength and resilience and can hold all her shit together even in the most crap of times. She is having a baby soon and that makes her a superhero in my eyes (even though I’m very aware women are doing this all day everyday). I’m also inspired by the many women who volunteer for CoppaFeel! and are happy to share their own stories with breast cancer. They’re all very badass.
Q: What’s been your proudest moment since starting CoppaFeel!?
A: Seeing our impact. When people write to us to let us know their breast cancer was caught at a super early stage and doesn’t require the harshest treatments and they have the best survival opportunity, that’s pretty great.
Q: What’s next for CoppaFeel!? What do you hope for the future?
A: Doing what we’re already doing, only bigger, reaching more people, doing it all more efficiently and ensuring what we do actually works. We won’t stop until every young person has the knowledge they need/or when this bastard disease buggers off.