Boobs. Breasts. Bosoms. Not really a common topic of conversation in everyday life for the vast majority us, but for Kris Hallenga, boobs are a connection between her work, social calendar and physical health. Kris is 30 years old and looking at her youthful complexion and styled blonde hair you would have no idea that she was diagnosed with Stage 4 advanced breast cancer, aged just 23. For those of us who may be less aware of cancer treatment, there is no Stage 5 breast cancer, which tragically makes Kris’ diagnosis terminal. Let’s just stop here and pause for a moment. What things occupy the mind of the average 23 year old? For most of us, life is just beginning, we may be at university or using our well earned degrees as we compete for our dream graduate jobs in the big wide world or some of the luckier ones amongst us may be exploring exotic places with unpronounceable names whilst travelling the world. It is needless to say that being given a diagnosis of terminal breast cancer at this point in our lives is just something that the vast majority of us would never anticipate, and neither did Kris.
Over the past few years breast cancer has gained increased public awareness through campaigns such as Cancer Research’s Race for Life, National Breast Cancer Awareness Month and more recently, the Breastmates Campaign on ITV’s morning television show Lorraine. The majority of these campaigns are directed towards older women, correlating with Cancer Research’s observation that the majority of breast cancer diagnoses (80% to be exact) are made amongst women aged 50 and over, with very little emphasis being placed upon breast cancer prevalence in younger generations.
Since breast cancer is the most common type of cancer in the UK, it is unfortunately all too common for us to know someone in our lives, perhaps an elder relative or friend who has battled with this ruthless disease. But how often do we stop and think about the members of our own generation who attend chemotherapy, endure mammograms and take a cocktail of breast cancer fighting drugs daily just to stay alive? Does our society view breast cancer as a disease affecting only the older generations? And are many young people aware that they too are at risk of developing this disease? This is one of the key motives that inspired Kris and her twin sister Maren to create their charity CoppaFeel! only one month after Kris received her diagnosis.
Kris’s story began when she noticed a lump in her breast and visited her GP who dismissed the lump as being due to hormones, since she was so young. After spending 6 months travelling, she noticed a pain in her chest and with the lump still being present went back to the GP and demanded a referral. Kris was diagnosed with Stage 4 breast cancer eight months after initially finding the lump in her breast. As we are all aware, as with any form of cancer, an early diagnosis is crucial and can have a hugely significant impact on the success of treatment and the prognosis of the patient. Having taken her late cancer diagnosis as her motivation for her charity CoppaFeel!, Kris is determined to encourage earlier breast cancer diagnoses among young people through raising awareness by encouraging and reminding us to get to know our boobs by checking them regularly. Since starting her charity Kris has established a network of 55 University Boob Teams across the UK, created annual music festival Festifeel! And has been awarded Outstanding campaigner of the year at the 60th annual Woman of the Year awards 2015. Throughout all of her campaigning, the message never changes; checking your boobs regularly could one day save your life.
Having been part of Cardiff’s CoppaFeel! Society for two years I have had many an opportunity to learn about boobs and have spoken with students about the importance regular breast checks. The most popular questions students ask is “how do I check myself?” and “how often should I check myself for signs and symptoms?” So let’s dive straight in and discuss the art of copping a feel. It is advised that you should check yourself at least once a month and us lovely people at Cardiff University Boob Team have set up a free text reminder service to make sure that you don’t forget. Simply text UBT CARDIFF to 70500 and you will be treated to a text every month to reminding you to check those boobies!
Whilst checking, be sure to look out for changes in the shape, size and texture of your breast, nipple discharge, nipple inversion, rashes and for any signs of swelling. Finally feel the breast tissue (which starts from the collar bone and ends in the armpit) for any lumps or bumps. The take home message when checking is that if you spot anything abnormal or if there is anything that you feel is not quite right for you be sure to make an appointment with your GP straight away because ultimately nobody knows your boobs better than you do.
So how exactly are we spreading the boob love around campus at Cardiff? Your CoppaFeel! Society committee is determined to make this the biggest and breast (excuse the pun!) year yet and have a calendar jam packed full of fundraisers and awareness events, so be sure to pick up a cupcake (or five!) at our famous boobie bake sales in the student’s union and join us at our meetings and socials. We are excited to be planning a sponsored cycle on 22nd-24th April 2016 around castles in West Wales whilst wearing a giant CoppaFeel! boob. We are also busy arranging our CoppaFeel! 2016 Dodge Ball Championship. As our members can assure you, all of us at Coppafeel! love having a good time and last year took on the Four Peaks Challenge. This was a fun packed weekend where we did a spot of sponsored mountain climbing in the wild Welsh hills together (and got absolutely soaking wet thanks to the lovely Welsh weather!) but all our hard work paid off as we raised heaps of awareness and over £3000 for CoppaFeel! So if you fancy getting involved and helping us in our mission to stamp out the late detection of breast cancer, come along to one of our society events and bring your friends and flatmates for a good time with great company and don’t forget to CoppaFeel!
For the more information about all things boob related and to keep up to date with our latest campaigns check out the CoppaFeel website at https://coppafeel.org.