At 22, most of us worry about dating, partying and working. But Kris was worried about something else. In June 2008 she discovered a lumpy boob, did the right thing and went to the doctor. But when you’re young it’s not going to be cancer, so she was sent away. Six months later the lump was still there, so her mom marched her back and demanded a referral.
At 23 and 3 months old she was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer. Not only that, but it had spread to her spine. She is at stage four, the most advanced type of cancer. There is no stage five.
At 23 and 5 months (just 2 months later!) she founded the first breast cancer charity in the UK to educate young people on everything boob-related. CoppaFeel! Is her way of ‘glittering a turd’ and bringing some positivity back into the situation.
At the screening of the new advert, we sat down with Kris to chat about everything boob-related and why it’s so important to spread the message!
“How did you feel when you were diagnosed? Did you always know you wanted to turn it into something positive?”
Umm, it was pretty immediate. I was 23 when I was diagnosed and I knew very little about checking myself, or about breast cancer at that age. I guess I was frustrated, so that kind of fuelled me to start the charity. I was frustrated that no one had ever spoken to me while I was in school.
As a young person, someone could’ve said: “You know what, just get to know your boobs”. I would’ve picked my symptoms up so much quicker and I would’ve done something about it. But I very much knew nothing, and that led to my very late diagnosis. So yeah I was frustrated when I was diagnosed, all the way along I had no idea that that was going to be the news. And the attitude was very much, “You’re too young.” So, yeah I was frustrated, which fueled the need for CoppaFeel!.
“So can you tell us a bit about CoppaFeel!?”
CoppaFeel is a Breast Cancer Education Charity, so we’re all about educating young people about getting to know their boobs, and having the confidence to speak up when they’ve noticed something that isn’t right for them. To educate them on the signs and symptoms, and also remind them to keep doing it.
Doing it once isn’t enough and you aren’t going to be able to find out what’s normal for you unless you’re doing it regularly. So that’s why we have reminder services as well. But we get through to young people in lots of different ways, we go to festivals, we go to schools, we go to workplaces and Universities. Basically, wherever young people are, we try and reach them and educate them.
“So how often should you be checking for this kind of thing?”
We say about once a month, just kind of get into the hang of your cycle and obviously, that’s when your boobs change quite naturally anyway, but you wouldn’t know that unless you actually have a good look and a good feel.
So once a month and in line with your cycle is good, then you would notice if something isn’t right. If it’s not right for you then you need to get it checked out.
“What are your goals with CoppaFeel! at the moment?”
At the moment we’ve launched this campaign called Get It Off Your Chest. This campaign could be seen by anyone, and it’s encouraging people to understand that it’s not just one sign and symptom of breast cancer. People just think it’s all about the lump, but it’s not just that, there are other signs and symptoms to be looking out for. And to have that confidence to just tell someone. It doesn’t matter who you tell, just tell someone.
Yes, people understand they should be checking, but it’s about knowing how breast cancer can present itself, and having the confidence to turn to someone. And the fact that you can turn to someone if something has happened, and something’s not right for them.
I think in terms of goals, it’s about finding new and innovative ways of getting this message across. Ultimately we want to be in schools as a part of the curriculum so we don’t have to be doing this forever. I think that should be the goal of every charity, to not exist. We should really be solving the issue by now.
“What advice do you have for any young girl who’s a bit concerned about something right now?”
Don’t freak out! I think that would be the first thing. It’s so easy to freak out because obviously, you think of cancer, and that actually scares you into doing nothing when you’re young and it shouldn’t really be that way. Because ultimately if you are diagnosed with cancer, if you find it early there are great treatments out there and you are more likely to survive now.
Survival rates are much higher than they used to be. But the chances of it actually being cancer are quite slim, so just go and speak to someone. Don’t worry because the chances of it being cancer are slim, but you have every right to go and get it checked out.
“Who’s the most inspiring person you’ve ever met?”
Probably quite cheesy but my twin sister. Just because I just find it really incredible the way she’s dealing with it, because if I was in her position I wouldn’t be able to deal with it the way she is. Similarly, she wouldn’t be able to deal with actually having the disease.
Because she’s such a wimp, she hates hospitals, she can’t stand needles. Whereas I’m quite blasé about all that. So like I found the way she’s dealing with it really inspiring. It certainly keeps me going. I could say like some famous people, but then I want to go with the people who are actually in my life.
Check out the trailer for the documentary about Kris Dying To Live, and make sure to educate yourself on the signs and symptoms of breast cancer by watching the advert and heading to CoppaFeel!