My 'Normal' Life With a terminal illness
Kris Hallenga from Daventry, Northamptonshire, is the founder of breast cancer awareness charity CoppaFeel! At 23, a tumour on her breast was mistakenly dismissed after her doctor told her that she had nothing to worry about - she later went on to develop stage four breast cancer. Stage four is terminal and although she has outlived her prognosis by several years, she urges everyone to check themselves.
Here, Kris blogs about her experiences, and tells us how she deals with her new sense of 'normal'...
Do you know what your boobs feel like normally? I know, it’s a pretty weird question that, but actually quite an important one. You see, breast cancer doesn’t have to be a scary disease if it’s found early. Which means checking your boobs regularly, knowing the signs and symptoms of breast cancer and having the confidence to go speak to a doctor if something isn’t right for you. If found early breast cancer can be cured and you can carry on with life as before. If found late, and by that I mean that it’s spread from your boob to other places around your body, it can’t be cured but can be treated for as long as your body allows.
And why am I telling you this? Because that is where I am at. Over 8 years ago I found a lump in my boob which I thought would be nothing. I was only 22 so didn’t think much of it, and neither did my GP. I hadn’t been checking my boobs so had no idea how long the lump had been there. It was only when I went back to the GP six months later that my symptoms got worse - I had blood coming out of my nipple and my boob was so painful I couldn’t sleep on my front at night. What I didn’t know is that I had cancer, and it wasn’t until my symptoms got taken seriously and I had more tests that doctors confirmed my absolute worst nightmare: I was 23 and had not only breast cancer, but an advanced case because it had found it’s sneaky way to my spine. It was frustrating, it was shocking, it was silly. I shouldn’t have been diagnosed so late.
I immediately started lots of aggressive treatments and suddenly found I had a lot of time on my hands. So I set up a campaign called ‘CoppaFeel!’ which aimed to make sure you lot check your boobs, and do it regularly so you would spot if something wasn’t normal for you. My story needn’t be repeated, and I wanted to spread the boob love far and wide. CoppaFeel! became a charity the same year I was diagnosed and today it is a thriving and busy charity doing lots of important and life saving campaigns - basically, we talk about boobs, a lot. Maybe you’ve spotted us at a festival, in your homework diary, or on social media.
Believe me, I wouldn’t recommend getting cancer, so do me a favour and get to know your boobs today so that IF it ever happens to you, it can be found early and you can live a long and happy life. If you need reminding we can send you a monthly text straight to your phone! for free! And you can thank me later. Just text BOOBS to 70300 and join the boob-loving revolution today!
Kris on what 'normal' means to her...
I am still not cancer free but manage to have as normal a life as I possibly can. Normal to me means making the most of just about everything, and learning to be flexible and happy in the most ridiculous and difficult of situations. When you have a terminal illness you have to work out a brand new normal, and thankfully I’ve managed to do that, and do it pretty well.
Don't be a boob
If you'd like further advice, information and support on cancer, check out the Channel 4 support site.