Kristin Hallenga: ‘Cancer had never crossed my mind, not for a second’

Six months later, obtaining returned from travelling in China, Kristin was going through ache in her breast, so went back to her physician. He told her to come off the contraceptive pill, which she did, but her mother urged her to request for a referral to a breast clinic. There, she was told to wait three weeks for her hormones to settle prior to receiving tested.

“In that time, I woke up with a blood-stained T-shirt,” remembers Kristin. “By the time it was identified, the cancer was avocado-sized. One week later on, soon after I’d had exams on my bones and organs, they advised me it was secondary, because it had spread to my spine.”

Kristin broke the information to her twin – “the hardest conversation I’ve ever had to have” – and virtually instantly commenced treatment method: chemotherapy to shrink the cancer, followed by a mastectomy.

“Cancer had in no way crossed my thoughts, not even for a single second,” she says. “It obviously came as a shock to the doctors simply because I was 1 of the youngest sufferers they’d noticed, but I really do not know why, because medically it is one thing that they know can occur.” However her cancer is not hereditary, Kristin’s doctors knew that her grandmother had had breast cancer at the age of 30 – but didn’t suggest that this may well be a risk issue. “She lived right up until she was 75 so it wasn’t one thing I brought up straight away or one thing they centered on,” she explains. “When my consultant informed me the diagnosis, he mentioned, ‘We were a bit worried about your grandmother having it so youthful,’ but that was news to me. I did not know they have been anxious.”

Grappling with cancer at such a young age, Kristin quickly grew to become conscious of the lack of assistance – and, crucially, information – for other folks in her place. During her 1st round of chemotherapy, with Maren’s aid, she set up CoppaFeel!, a breast cancer awareness charity, which aims to raise the profile of the condition and get teens and twentysomethings checking their breasts.

It started with fundraising at a festival and, over five many years, has grow to be one particular of Britain’s most widely supported brings about. Kristin was awarded the Pride of Britain award in 2009, and her searing story has been manufactured into a documentary, Kris: Dying to Live, which will be shown on BBC 3.

Kristin’s message – there is no this kind of thing as “too younger for cancer” – has taken on certain significance these previous handful of weeks. Sophie Jones’s death stunned the nation, but she was not the initial to encounter such an unjust fate. Ahead of her, there was 23-yr-previous Mercedes Curnow from Cornwall, who died in 2011 of cervical cancer, which went undetected right after she was refused exams. There was Stephanie Knight, 21, from Hertfordshire, who died of bone cancer last yr Diane Stevens, 18, from Reading through, who died of breast cancer in 2001. And, of program, Jade Goody, the 27-12 months-previous actuality Television star, who died in 2009 from cervical cancer – and whose death sparked a surge in demand for smear exams.

According to the ONS, 7 13- to 24-yr-olds are diagnosed with cancer each day in the United kingdom, totalling two,214 amongst 2008 and 2010. Shockingly, cancer is the most typical health care result in of death in youthful individuals – however all also often we hear tales of fatally late diagnoses. “One in three of us get it,” says Kristin. “From a young age, we learn to cross the street, to brush our teeth – so why are not we studying about a disease that we’re much more than likely to get in our lives?”

Modifying attitudes in the direction of younger people and cancer, nonetheless, is no easy feat. CoppaFeel! – with its irreverent humour and eye-catching publicity stunts (flashmobs, Tube advertisements, festival stalls) – is making headway by speaking to youngsters in a language they recognize. The up coming step, Kristin believes, is focusing on colleges and to this finish she has founded Rethink Cancer, an initiative aiming to get training about all types of cancer integrated into the curriculum. “We want to train teachers as effectively as college students,” she says. “Getting young individuals to be mindful of the signs of cancer, to commence being aware of their very own bodies, is a habit they ought to discover when they are youthful.”

What about the medical occupation? Sophie’s family have explained they really feel allow down by the NHS and Kristin agrees that smear tests should be supplied earlier. “I was particularly unlucky with my GP, just like Sophie,” she says. “Her story is horrendous since she was turned down – and I believe anyone with signs and symptoms ought to be examined. But I have been very mindful not to slate the health-related occupation because that doesn’t carry us anything at all. Receiving stories like Sophie’s, and mine, out there for physicians to study and say, ‘I must listen to my younger patients,’ is significantly far more advantageous.”

Does she blame her doctor for not selecting up her cancer earlier? “I feel blame at several individuals,” she says. “I really do not necessarily want to blame myself, due to the fact there was practically nothing telling me that cancer could happen. I want I’d had somebody like me standing in front of me at college, or university it may possibly have been a set off level in that I could have gone to the GP sooner.”

Since she has been diagnosed, she adds, referral practices have transformed – so underneath-30s are no longer automatically classed as “non-urgent” patients. “I could have been waiting up to ten weeks for a scan. So that’s a good modify.”

All the even though, Kristin’s battle against cancer continues – though you wouldn’t know it to appear at her, a smiling, pretty blonde with a wide, carefree smile. Since her diagnosis, her cancer has spread to her liver and, most not too long ago, to her brain. She has lost 1 breast and her hair to chemotherapy. She has appointments at Charing Cross hospital every single month, and will take painkillers daily. “Cancer is sort of my lifestyle these days,” she says. “I really do not genuinely feel about the future. I’ve never ever been 1 of these men and women who program, even just before the cancer. I’m just enjoying living, taking it all in, week by week.”

Tomorrow is Sophie Jones’s funeral. For now, Kristin will maintain on fighting the battle that she misplaced.

‘Kris: Dying to Live’ is on BBC Three on March 26 at 9pm

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>