October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. LomoAmigo Kristin Hallenga is the founder of Coppafeel! A charity on a mission to get guys and gals checking their boobies on a regular basis. She’s here to share her own story, show you her day to day life living with breast cancer, and remind you why you should Coppafeel!
What happens at 23? Well, if you’re lucky, seeing a bit of the world, boozing with mates and a whole load of carefree fun. And if you’re less lucky? Breast cancer. Which is precisely what happened to Kris in 2009.
Since her diagnosis she has not only battled with a life changing disease, but also founded a charity, appeared on TV numerous times, travelled the UK reminding lads and lasses to check their chesticles, and been given the Pride of Britain Award.
Here’s Kristin to tell you all about her life in her own words and photos…
City: Lovely London
Tell us a bit about yourself…
I wear too many rings, I work way too much, I very much like cakes made from vegetables and my favourite movie is Romy and Michelle’s High School Reunion. What else do you need to know? Well, maybe that I run a charity called CoppaFeel! which involves me talking about boobs pretty much 99% of my time. Why? Because we’re stamping out late detection of breast cancer by ensuring the world checks theirs boobs regularly and spots the signs and symptoms of this vile disease very early. Early detection saves lives kids, which I annoyingly know far too well because I was diagnosed with breast cancer 3.5 years ago, 8 months after first going to the doctors. So, by the time it was discovered it hadn’t just found a home in my breast, it had made its way to my spine too and is now also holidaying in my liver. My life revolves around CoppaFeel! and anything boob related and when I do get a chance to switch off I either spend time in Cornwall with my twin sister Maren and her dog Rambo, or at one of the many cool markets around London with my handsome boyf Rich OR cuddling my pretty cat Wilhelm.
How and why did you create Coppafeel?
I have a vision of a world where no one dies of breast cancer because it wasn’t diagnosed quick enough. Until that world exists, I am dedicated to making sure YOU check your boobies forever and ever. I was SO unlucky to get breast cancer when I was 23, because it is pretty rare, but the sooner we all get to know ourselves better, the sooner we’ll spot when something is just not quite right.
How has your life changed since your diagnosis?
It sounds corny and bizarre, but my life pretty much STARTED when I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Before D (D for diagnosis) Day, I didn’t have a job, had just split up with a total douchebag of a boy, had spent 6 months in China doing a job I didn’t particularly enjoy and the only thing I knew was that I wanted to visit many countries and NOT live in England. So when I was told I was going to be needing treatment for cancer for the foreseeable future, whilst I still lived with my Mum in Northamptonshire, I knew I needed to do something that gave me back the freedom I adored when I was travelling. So I started to knit. And that soon got boring because it didn’t quite let me take control of what was happening to my life. And that’s when CoppaFeel! was born. It became a charity within 3 months of having our first “brainstorm” about it, I moved to London within a year and met the man who is now my boyfriend, flat mate and the co-owner of the coolest cat on the planet. I am also the CEO of a charity that saves lives – who can say that at 26? I still have to kick cancers butt on a daily basis and visit the hospital monthly for treatment and I also live in constant fear that the cancer has cropped up in another part of my body. But I love my life now and am happier than I have ever been….odd, isn’t it?
How did you find out you had breast cancer?
I found my lump by the time it was so big and painful I couldn’t sleep on my front at night! I wasn’t checking my boobs so I didn’t feel the “pea Sized lump” everyone talks about. Sometimes the pain would keep me up at night and I’d wake up with a hot chest. The symptoms should never got to this stage and they wouldn’t have if I’d had checked my boobs sooner and visited my GP. Silly, silly me….
What stage of treatment are you at now?
I have, what I like to call, “bone juice” every month which involves a 20 minute drip at hospital to keep my bones from crumbling from the cancer. I also have two massive needles inject me with hormone drugs every month to keep the cancer under control. And to keep things even more thrilling, I take a cocktail of pills every morning with my ultra yummy glass of wheatgrass powdered juice – I know how to live like a rock star. Truth is, I will be having one treatment or another for the rest of my life because my (enter rude word here) cancer is not curable.
You’ve taken the Diana Mini around with you in your day to day life for a couple of weeks. Where did you take it?
Where HAVEN’T I taken it! I got the camera just before Rich and I went on holiday to Spain which was awesome because I didn’t have to worry about the lack of light!! We also constantly have events, photo shoots and talks happening with CoppaFeel! so I took some shots at every given opportunity.
I also took a photo of my oncologist with the blue filter – his favourite colour is blue but I also thought the lighting emphasise his expression – he’s not as serious as he looks on the pic though! My cat instantly became my model (read: victim) and I guess I managed to capture Rich at his best too…. We went to Brighton for his Birthday so I really like the shot I got of him in the dark on the beach, he looks like he should be modelling for Urban Outfitters.
What can we see in your photos?
I took the camera to our last festival of the Boob tour – Bestival. The stall next to us had a bubble maker and since we were running a campaign called CoppaFeel! in the shower I thought it would make for a perfecto photo opp!
One of our charity patrons is Fearne Cotton who designs clothes for Very (who happen to sponsor one of our projects). She kindly offered for us to come to her LFW fashion show and we caught up with her after. We tried to coordinate pouts…
When you were first diagnosed you used a holga and took a photo of something that made you happy every day. What did that project mean for you?
During days when I could barely find the strength to get out of bed to walk to the toilet, I found a lot of joy from taking a photo of something that made me be glad that day even happened. When things are tough, good times seem all the more special and bright, so I wanted to capture moments that made me smile – no matter how big or small, silly or profound. I wanted to be able to look back at those days and remember the little things that got me through the hardest time of my life and also the special moments when CoppaFeel! was starting to take off – such as when we signed our very first contract to work with an agency to help us spread more boob love or I met someone amazing through the charity.
What advice would you give to everyone else in the big wide world?
Firstly, check your boobs! and secondly, cake and tea solve practically every issue in life.
Right Lomographers, if that hasn’t made you want to check your boobs (and man-boobs, guys get it too you know!) then I don’t know what will. Head to the Coppafeel! website for how-to guides, useful information, and super cool campaigns you can get involved in too!
Don’t keep your new found motivation and knowledge to yourself. Scroll down a little and use those share buttons to tell your mates to check themselves out too. You could save a life today!
The Diana Mini is the ultra-compact, petite version of the Diana F+. This camera takes soft-focused, lo-fi images in 35mm and allows you to change between half-format and square shots with a flick of a switch. Get your own Diana Mini now!