18 Feb 19
The Scottish Sun
I HAVE had stage-four breast cancer for ten whole years. And the best bit? I’m not dead.
That is probably the most shocking part of this story.
Kris Hallenga celebrated ten years battling cancer with her favourite people
Late-stage cancer isn’t typically survived for this long, let alone lived well.
So, this weekend I celebrated at the Eden Project in Cornwall.
I gathered my favourite people and thanked them for getting me through these years.
The theme of the party was “cats around the world”.
Ten years ago Kris was diagnosed with a stage-four breast cancer
Everyone looked amazing and we all laughed, and cried, so much. It was a room full of love.
It was a party that statistically should not have happened.
Advanced, secondary, stage-four breast cancer (they all mean the same thing) usually gives you two to three years’ survival.
But I like to ignore the statistics.
Kris celebrated her ‘cancer-versary’ with a ‘cats around the world’ themed party
I still remember everything about that day — February 19, 2009. What I wore, what was said, how I felt… a bit hungover from the night before, actually.
To be honest, I thought nothing of the appointment.
Even though our black cat Lucky sat on my lap before we left for the hospital, which was odd as he had already been fed.
When we got to the hospital, Mum couldn’t find a parking space, so I went to my appointment while she kept looking.
The party took place this weekend at the Eden Project in Cornwall
I was baffled when the nurse asked me if I was on my own. But now, of course, I know why.
Despite these weird moments, I would never have guessed I was about to be told I had breast cancer.
Mum eventually joined us, where she found a very upset daughter who had been told the worst possible news.
How I felt in that moment is still so hard to describe.
Kris feels lucky for living ten years with the condition and assures there is life even with it
It was like I wasn’t in my body, that I was observing something horrendous from the corner of the room.
I couldn’t take in anything the doctor was saying, other than him telling me I would be having my breast removed very soon and I needed further scans to check it hadn’t spread.
Within a week, my worst fears came true. It had spread to my spine.
But, most importantly, I am still here to tell the tale.
Since Kris was diagnosed, she has had her left boob removed, underwent chemotherapy and radiotherapy
Since then, I have had my left boob removed, as well as undergoing chemotherapy and various bouts of radiotherapy.
Last year, I needed some very targeted radiotherapy to my brain, which had managed to sprout several tiny brain tumours.
That involved keeping my head very still with a metal frame that had to be bolted to my head.
It was the worst pain I have ever experienced.
I’ve done my own research to know what is best for me — and that includes having an integrative approach to my treatment.
Currently I am on a chemotherapy pill to keep the cancer under control.
I have an infrared sauna sleeping bag, I do hyperbaric oxygen therapy, acupuncture, reflexology and many other healing things. And at the moment I feel great.
Recently, I found out the brain tumours treated last year — all 57 of them — are shrinking and I have no new disease.
Kris had 57 tumours in her brain treated last year
Each year, just 30 women under the age of 24 are diagnosed with breast cancer.
Goes to show how ridiculously unlucky I was to get it so young, doesn’t it?
I want to say to those women diagnosed — to any women, for that matter — it will be OK.
There is life after cancer, even WITH it. I hope you haven’t been told it is “incurable”.
Kris Hallenga currently takes chemotherapy pills to keep the cancer under control
But if you have, I hope my story gives you strength to keep living and to never, ever, lose hope.
And to the rest of you, I want to say “Check your boobs!”
Once you’ve done that, if you are feeling super-kind, please donate to CoppaFeel! so we can continue to educate people about cancer.
No one should have to celebrate still being alive, although it is a jolly good excuse for a party.
For monthly reminders to check
your boobs, text:
REMIND to 70500.
Your initial message will
cost your standard network rate
Kris Hallenga has done her own research to know what’s best for her
I may have been given more time than most, but what matters is how much I have crammed into these 3,650 days.
It’s not about the time you have had on this planet but what you have done in that time.
As it’s my ten-year “cancerversary”, I have decided to list ten key moments I believe have kept me alive and able to thrive.
10 things that make me so proud
1. Set up a charity
I didn’t know I could get breast cancer at 23. I had no idea how long the lump had been there because I was so unaware of what my boobs felt like normally.
I wasn’t checking them and when I realised young people weren’t getting that education, I knew something had to change.
Kris Hallenga is the founder of CoppaFeel!
I got my friends round to my mum’s, where I was living at the time, and pitched the idea to them. And they seemed to agree that it was a good thing to do.
We went to a festival to try out our “messaging” – essentially asking festival- goers if they checked their boobs – and we discovered young folk WERE up for these conversations.
On the day I got my boob removed, October 28, 2009, we were given official charity status.
CoppaFeel! reminds you lot to check yourself and to do it regularly
CoppaFeel! reminds you lot to check yourself and to do it regularly.
The charity is now quite a beast, raising more than £1million a year and reminding more than 100,000 people every month to check their boobs.
We have more than 100 Boobettes educating young people and more than 60 university teams spreading the word on campus.
2. Backing from The Sun
In 2014, we hijacked Page 3 for our Check ’em Tuesday campaign.
I’ve shared how I live with cancer with you all ever since.
The Sun campaign made an epic impact on breast cancer awareness
The campaign was a game changer for our charity and we made an epic impact on breast cancer awareness.
3. Pushed myself to physical limits
Despite having cancer throughout my body, I have achieved some ridiculous physical feats.
Not only have I run a half-marathon, I have trekked in Iceland for one of our amazing Fabulous Challenges, all in the name of boob love.
Despite her condition, Kris has run a half-marathon and trekked in Iceland
4. Got to walk my darling twin sister Maren down the aisle at her wedding
It’s a day I never thought I was going to see – more because I never thought they’d actually get round to doing it, but also because of the whole terminal illness thing.
Experiencing that moment made me truly realise what being alive and happy was all about. My happiness peaked that day.
Kris Hallenga was able to walk her twin sister down the aisle
5. Been a great boss
A boss of the charity and my health. Cancer has kept me on my toes as it has spread to various bones, my liver and my brain.
I have had to navigate the medical system and educate myself on everything to give myself the best chance.
Kris Hallenga has researched everything related to breast cancer to help herself and others
It’s been exhausting and heartbreaking at times, but it’s paid off.
6. Have accepted D word – Death
Through the power of cancer, I’ve become very acquainted with the idea that I won’t be here for ever. But the thing is, neither will you.
And I feel lucky that with this awareness I can live an even more fulfilling life and not waste any time.
Kris feels lucky to be alive and celebrates life every day
7. Was awarded an honorary doctorate
Nottingham Trent University acknowledged my work with CoppaFeel! and educating the public.
This was a particularly epic feeling because I didn’t even have a degree and I was recognised for my work, not my cancer.
Kris was recognised for her work and was awarded an honorary doctorate by Nottingham Trent University
I got to give a speech on graduation day and used a Disney Pocahontas quote which I was pretty proud of. That quote is:
“You think the only people who are people
“Are the people who look and think like you
“But if you walk the footsteps of a stranger
“ You’ll learn things you never knew, you never knew”
8. We got cancer on the curriculum
From 2020, all secondary-school students will be taught about cancer and self-checking. That’s pretty cool.
And if you had told me that ten years ago, I would have laughed in your face.
All secondary-school students will be taught about cancer and self-checking by 2020
We never really believe that we can make real change, but I am here to tell you that you can. I, and the charity, are proof of that.
9. CoppaFeel! got the first naked nipple on daytime TV
We began a campaign in 2017, #TrustYourTouch, urging people to check their boobs – and ads with supporters of the charity doing this were shown on TV. It sparked brilliant conversations.
Kris Hallenga at Lorraine Kelly’s show in 2010
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10. Have met some wonderful people along the way
These are people who I just wouldn’t have known, had I not walked down this cancer road.
I have shared some epic moments with incredible people.
Kris Hallenga with Fearne Cotton campaigning for breast cancer awareness
Some are famous faces but to me they have become true mates.
If you asked me whether I could have these ten years reversed and live them cancer-free, I would probably say no because it would mean I would be living without some absolute gems in my life.
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