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Well, let’s dive in with a bit of background. CoppaFeel! was founded by twin sisters Kris and Maren Hallenga after Kris was diagnosed with secondary breast cancer when she was 23. No-one had ever told Kris to check her boobs – and by the time she was diagnosed with breast cancer, it had already spread beyond her breast, meaning it was treatable but not curable. Kris would live with breast cancer for the rest of her life. After this diagnosis, she decided to change the world. She wanted to stamp out late detection of breast cancer and realised that early detection saves lives. As a result of that revelation, CoppaFeel! was born. 11 years later, the charity and Kris are both thriving, spreading the boob love message to anyone who will listen. It’s easy to see why they caught Gi’s eye.
It’s a charity that genuinely saves lives. Helen Deverell is a volunteer Boobette for the charity. Boobettes are basically the chest ninjas of the world. They go into schools, colleges, workplaces (basically anywhere that will have ’em) and talk about the importance of getting to know your body. The thing that makes Boobettes unique? They’ve all been affected by breast cancer and Helen got involved with the charity after her own breast cancer diagnosis in November 2014. She was 29.
“About nine months before I found my lump while in the shower, I had watched Kris Hallenga’s documentary Dying to Live. I had no idea you could get breast cancer in your 20s and after watching it, I started checking regularly. When I found the lump I was initially worried but my GP assured me it was probably nothing to worry about but sent me for tests to be on the safe side. I was later diagnosed with stage 1 breast cancer. I don’t remember much from that appointment other than my husband’s head in his hands, me repeating ‘but I’m only 29’ and asking ‘am I going to die?'”
Helen had a lumpectomy, chemotherapy and radiotherapy to treat the cancer and has been on hormone suppressant Tamoxifen ever since, apart from when she had a break to have her baby.
“Once over the initial shock, my thoughts turned to ‘will I ever be a mother?’. Due to my cancer being hormone receptive, I had to take medication for a number of years before I could take a break to try for a baby. It was devastating to think that my choice to be a mother might have been taken away, especially as by then I was in my early 30s with everyone around me having babies. I felt like it was never going to be me.
I did end up having my little boy in 2020. I am unbelievably grateful to have him – I still can’t believe he’s here. There is always the fear with cancer that it might return, and it was something I thought long and hard about before becoming a mother, but looking after my little boy helps me live in the present and feel grateful for where I am right now.”
She got involved with CoppaFeel! because she wanted to give back to the charity that she credits with saving her life.
“I’m one of the Boobettes and share my story to raise awareness in young people of the importance of checking your boobs and knowing your body. I passionately believe in the power of storytelling and I know that the Boobettes save lives. It’s an absolute privilege to be one of them and I am in awe of my fellow Boobettes who are some of the strongest women I know.”
Giovanna too recognises the power of being body aware and the message CoppaFeel! share, especially during and beyond pregnancy when there are so many changes taking place. “I love all the work CoppaFeel! does and think it’s so important that everyone knows the many symptoms of breast cancer in the hope of stamping out late detection and increasing survival rates.”
Helen nails how important it is that CoppaFeel! exists and why we all need to get into the healthy habit of a lifetime and check our chests on a regular basis: “CoppaFeel! means everything to me. I don’t think I would still be here today if it wasn’t for them”.
Make time to get to know your body today. Sign up for a monthly CoppaFeel! text reminder. It could save your life.