LIFESTYLE

CoppaFeel! Founder Kris Hallenga Stars In Inspirational BBC Three Documentary 'Kris: Dying to Live'

27/03/2014 12:18 GMT | Updated 27/03/2014 12:59 GMT

Most of us, had we been told at the age of 28 that we had terminal breast cancer, probably would have closed the curtains and curled up into a ball.

But what makes Kris Hallenga so exceptional is that despite being told she had stage four cancer - "There is no stage five," she says - she started charity CoppaFeel! to ensure young women were much more clued up about breast cancer.

Her burning drive since being diagnosed in 2009 is to make people aware that there's no such thing as "being too young for cancer." Had her doctors taken it more seriously, she may have been diagnosed earlier.

kris hallenga

Kris Hallenga

Her extraordinary story, including winning a Pride of Britain award, bagging £1.5 million worth of space in The Sun and setting up a charity as her legacy for younger women has been told in the BBC Three documentary Kris: Dying to Live.

The documentary provides an honest insight into the life of a twenty-something living with incurable cancer. It tells Kris' story and shows her busy with her CoppaFeel! campaign while in the process of undergoing cancer treatment.

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In 2008, Kris went to her GP after finding a lump in a breast. In an interview with The Telegraph, Kris explained why her breast cancer was not diagnosed when it was still treatable: “Mum said I should get it checked out so I did. My GP said it was just hormonal because of my age. The GP’s language and attitude was very much, 'This is fine; I don’t know what you’re worried about.’ Which made me think, great, that’s what I wanted to hear.”

Tragically Kris began to experience pain in her breast six months after her initial doctors appointment. She went back to see her GP who told her to come off the contraceptive pill. Kris' mother then insisted that she went to a breast clinic, but here Kris was told to wait three weeks for her hormones to settle before getting tested.

“In that time, I woke up with a blood-stained T-shirt,” Kris said. “By the time it was found, the cancer was avocado-sized. One week later, after I’d had tests on my bones and organs, they told me it was secondary, because it had spread to my spine.”

When she is not touring schools and universities delivering CoppaFeel!'s early detection advice, the BBC Three documentary shows that Kris still manages to find the time to socialise with friends and family.

“I know my time is short,” she comments in an honest voiceover, “so I’m going to make it count.”

coppafeel

Speaking to The Radio Times, Kris said that she wanted to make the documentary in order to show people the reality of living with incurable cancer: “I wanted people to see someone living with cancer rather than dying or surviving,” she explains. “This isn’t another breast cancer story that will make people sad without teaching them anything. I want the film to make people think about their health.”

Kris founded CoppaFeel! with the help of her sister Maren to change attitudes towards cancer and young people, particularly breast cancer. With it's flashmobs, Tube advertisements, festival stalls "boob teams" and "Boobettes" spreading the message of breast awareness around the country, the charity has grown from strength to strength and has gained a legion of celebrity supporters along the way.

In response to Neknominate - the Facebook drinking game, where participants down concoctions of alcohol and challenge someone else (via social media) to compete - Coppafeel! devised their own version: #Cheknominate, which aimed to "save lives, not risk them".


Writing for The Huffington Post UK, Kris explained why running a nationwide charity is worth every effort: "What I love about running CoppaFeel! is that every day is different. Every day brings new thoughts, ideas, interesting emails, difficulties and smiles. Most of the time, the team and I are on our laptops, barely speaking to each other, trying to make our dreams a reality.

"I certainly don't do it for the kudos, but when I am recognised for my work with awards such as the Women of the Future, I do feel like I must be doing something right. And if I can inspire others to make positive changes in society, then that is a bonus."