Campaigner and founder of cancer charity CoppaFeel!, Kris Hallenga, has died of breast cancer at the age of 38.

Kris was diagnosed with stage four breast cancer when she was 23, and lived with the disease for 15 years — throughout which she campaigned tirelessly; inspiring and encouraging thousands of people to check their breasts, and in doing so, saved countless lives.

German-born Kris, who lived in Newquay, Cornwall, was turned away from her GP for nearly a year before her diagnosis, by which point the cancer had spread to her spine.

In a 2021 interview with the Guardian, she said she had felt completely “baffled” when she received the diagnosis because she’d never once been told to check her breasts. While it was repeated to her several times that she was too young to get breast cancer.

“Why didn’t anyone tell me to check my boobs? Why didn’t I know I could get breast cancer at 23? I’m pretty sure my friends don’t know either, and if none of us do then literally no young person in this country f***ing knows this secret. This needs to change.”

A month after her diagnosis, Kris set up CoppaFeel! with her twin sister Maren to help raise awareness at schools and music festivals.

In 2009, Kris won a Pride of Britain Award, and in 2014 was featured as a special guest on Russell Howard’s Good News where she talked about her charity and experiences. She successfully campaigned for cancer education to be included in the school curriculum, won the Women of the Year Outstanding Young Campaigner award, and received an Honorary Doctorate in Public Administration from Nottingham Trent University.

Kris also authored a best-selling memoir, published in 2021, titled Glittering a Turd, which details how she embraced life after being told she had terminal cancer.

The announcement of her death, made on Monday 6 May via a statement on the CoppaFeel! website, said that Kris had “approached life in a wildly creative, fun and fearless way, and showed us that it is possible to live life to the full with cancer.”

“For 15 years Kris had been living with secondary breast cancer. 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. She was simply living. She was 38 and died with fulfilment and a heart full of love.”

It also revealed Kris’ life mission was that “CoppaFeel! would no longer need to exist, with late diagnosis of breast cancer eradicated in her lifetime”, adding, “we are committed to continuing Kris’ legacy, to ensure that everyone has the best chance of living a happy and healthy life.”

Source: Instagram – CoppaFeel! /@meggarrodart

It’s estimated that 11,500 people a year in the UK die from breast cancer. When diagnosed early, at stage one, almost 100% of women are alive after five years; while with a stage four diagnosis, the five-year survival rate is around 25%.

In our recent programme for International Women’s Day, Women’s Health: The Future we Deserve, we shone a light on the disease and the need for better education and awareness around breast-checks, through our interview with the CoppaFeel! charity.

WATCH: Louise Minchin interviews Sophie Dopierala-Bull and Shelley Syme.

In the interview, CoppaFeel!’s Sophie Dopierala-Bull and breast cancer awareness advocate Shelley Syme sat down with presenter Louise Minchin to discuss why it’s important for young people to check their chests regularly, and the missing education piece among young people: exactly how to carry out these checks.

Family and friends of Kris, and the CoppaFeel! charity, are asking people to honour her incredible legacy by checking their chests. As the charity says, “it could just save your life.”

You can also support Kris’ mission by donating here.

RIP Kris Hallenga, 11 November 1985 – May 2024.

‘Trust your body, believe in hope, leave room for miracles.’ – Kris Hallenga