Monday, May 20, 2024

CoppaFeel! charity founder remembered for making the world a ‘better place’

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Fearne Cotton, Giovanna Fletcher and Carol Vorderman were among the stars remembering Kris Hallenga, the founder of breast cancer awareness charity CoppaFeel!.

Ms Hallenga died at the age of 38, having lived with the disease for 15 years.

In 2009 she was diagnosed with secondary breast cancer, after being turned away from her GP for more than a year. By the time she was diagnosed, it was terminal.

CoppaFeel! was born in the same year and it became the mission of the charity to educate young people about why they should start checking from a younger age so that all breast cancer is diagnosed early.

Broadcaster, author and podcast host Cotton has been an avid fundraiser for the charity since meeting Ms Hallenga 14 years ago.

“When you were with her almost anything was possible. She would have an idea and two minutes later you’d be trying to plan how to bring it to life,” she said, sharing a series of pictures on Instagram.

“She rarely took no for an answer in the best way possible; getting the best musicians out there to play at our charity festival for @coppafeel or convincing others to run marathons with giant boobs strapped to them.

“She lived fully, more than I’ve ever seen anyone live.

“… She saw small chinks of light as potential and opportunity. Her face was pure sunshine not only because she was as beautiful as an angel but also because she was kind and caring and vibrant.

“She asked me to design her a tattoo a few years ago and I’m proud to say a hand drawn trapeze artist sat across the scar on her chest.”

Cotton said she would be lighting a candle “for my dear mate who not only touched my life but saved many others”.

As part of raising awareness and fundraising, the charity created the CoppaTrek! challenge which saw stars including I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here! winner Fletcher lead teams of people on treks.

“The work Kris did with @coppafeel has affected so many lives. So many people are here today because of the life saving message that she has put out there,” podcast host Fletcher said on Instagram.

“So moving forward, let’s celebrate being alive to do these things.

“Let’s say yes to the things that’ll fill our hearts. Let’s love life. Fully.”

Fletcher said Ms Hallenga “died with a heart full of love – she loved her life”.

Meanwhile former The Only Way Is Essex star Peter Wicks, who also captained a CoppaTrek! challenge, said on his Instagram story: “Kris created a legacy and changed the lives of so many people.

“The world has lost an inspiration.”

Similarly, Great British Bake Off winner Candice Brown shared a post about partaking in eight CoppaTrek! challenges, explaining how the charity “saved” her.

“Darling Kris, our world will be less sparkly without you in it,” she said on Instagram.

“You have done more for people than you will ever know, your legacy, words, will power, strength and complete F**K YOU to cancer will be shouted from many more mountains, hills, single track roads, tents, dunes and bathroom stalls when people see those magic words COPPAFEEL @coppafeel 15 years of reminding people to check themselves.

“15 years of @coppafeel Thank you Kris. You saved me, you saved so many others and you will continue to do so.

“There’s a reason I’ve done eight @coppafeel treks and counting……. And it all started with you.”

Kelsey Parker, whose husband Tom Parker from The Wanted died in 2022 at the age of 33 after being diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumour, said she was “sat here in tears and not knowing what to write”.

“Thank you Kris for bringing this wonderful charity into my life when I needed it the most and for getting me out walking when all I felt was pain and for letting me hold space for inspiring women like yourself, what a legacy you have created,” she said on Instagram.

“A true inspiration to all, Kris has shown the world how in the darkest of times you can shine light, raise awareness and help thousands of people.

“Living with secondary cancer for 15 years a f**king warrior BUT lost to soon to a horrible disease.

“…But I tell you we will walk hard for you Kris on Saturday a walking marathon in your Honour @coppafeel.”

Meanwhile former Countdown star Vorderman said: “The world was a better place because you were in it.”

“This is so incredibly sad,” the Pride Of Britain host said on X.

“Just 38 years old and suffering from breast cancer, Kris Hallenga founder of @CoppaFeelPeople was such an incredibly bright star in the firmament.

“She was nominated by Cancer Research UK to win her @PrideOfBritain award in 2017 and it was a joy to meet her.

“So many will thank you for all the help you’ve given them over your far-too-short life.”

Ms Hallenga’s death was confirmed with a statement on the charity’s website.

“She hasn’t lost a battle, she wasn’t in a fight and she certainly wouldn’t want you to see her death as tragic,” it said.

“She was simply living. She was 38 and died with fulfilment and a heart full of love.”

The statement said her dream was that one day CoppaFeel! would no longer need to exist and late diagnosis of breast cancer might be eradicated in her lifetime.

With this in mind she campaigned for cancer education to be included in the school curriculum and wrote Glittering A Turd, which went on to become a best-selling book.

She won the Women of the Year Outstanding Young Campaigner award and received an honorary doctorate in public administration from Nottingham Trent University.

“Please remember the amazing life Kris led and the things she achieved, but above all else honour her memory by checking your chest… it could just save your life,” the statement added.

NHS England’s national director for cancer, Dame Cally Palmer, said: “The work Kris Hallenga and CoppaFeel! have done to raise awareness of breast cancer and its symptoms, particularly in younger women, has led to many people coming forward earlier to get checked and receive the all-clear or a diagnosis as early as possible.

“It is an incredible legacy to leave behind.

“I want to urge everyone to be aware of their own bodies – please look out for lumps, or a change in the look, shape or feel of one or both breasts, and contact your GP if needed as early as possible, as the earlier cancer is diagnosed, the easier it is to treat.”

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