Alive and glittering: lessons from 12 years living with terminal cancer

Perhaps, potentially not. She will never know, but shes damned if others are going to be left asking themselves the very same.

Newquay harbour, Cornwall. Winter season. No tourists. Skies dark overhead. Ocean pounding. A little fleet of weather-beaten trawlers, all secured tight to their moorings. And, there, bobbing up and down in the shallows, a lone swimmer. Immersed, unconcerned, material.

Twelve years ago today, Kris Hallenga was informed she had 2 and a half years to live. Due to release her very first book– Glittering a Turd– this summer season, the CoppaFeel! founder talks wild swimming, simple satisfaction and why it should not take a crisis for us to reach our potential

Hallenga is frequently to be found swimming in the sea near her house in Cornwall. Image: James Bowden

Prior to her medical diagnosis, she knew something wasnt right, but chose to neglect it. Young people do not get cancer?

Hallenga established CoppaFeel! after she was medical diagnosis with breast cancer aged 23. Image: James Bowden

Then, eight months later, her nipples began to bleed. By that stage, the cancer had actually spread to her spinal column and liver, later on advancing to her brain.

” Theres something about the cold. Its weird, however I like that sensation of being bold and just going all out. The entire experience: it simply makes me feel a lot more awake, so much more alive,” she excites.

Alive is, in Hallengas case, no throwaway word. At the age of 23, she was identified with stage four cancer (” there is no phase 5″, she notes).

Enter the 17-strong CoppaFeel! group: youthful, energetic, breast consumed advocates. Throughout the years, they have actually tossed themselves into everything from flashmobs and promotion stunts (they when predicted heading cancer stats on to the Houses of Parliament) through to instructor training and policy advocacy.

Looking back is something she has actually been doing significantly over the in 2015. Not one to waste a minute, she seized the day of being locked down to compose a book. Her publisher pitches it as a narrative; Hallenga prefers eulogy. The reflection-rich account of her life with cancer is due out this summer season with the characteristically tongue-in-cheek title, Glittering a Turd. (Her Instagram deal with is @howtoglitteraturd).

Kris Hallengas morning dips started a few years back. She braves the cold whatever the weather condition. It never ever gets any simpler, that initial step. But, once made, the endorphins and adrenaline begin kicking in, and she finds the solace she seeks.

The composing procedure has proved cathartic. For one, its given Hallenga the space to process the highs and lows of her cancer journey. Not one to blow her own trumpet, she avoids rapidly over her accomplishments: the awards, the honorary doctorate, the hour-long BBC documentary, the recent inclusion of cancer awareness on the UK school curriculum.

“Spreading the boob love,” is how Hallenga sums up their strategy. Compared to the generally sober world of medical charities, their upbeat tone helps to set CoppaFeel!

” As young people ourselves, we knew that they were going to resent anything that scared them. We likewise understood the worth of speaking with them on a level they comprehend,” says Hallenga, showing on the initial thinking behind the charitys method.

Much of that enthusiasm over the last decade and more, she has poured into CoppaFeel!, a cancer awareness charity that Hallenga established just 3 months after her medical diagnosis. Her objective is easy: to talk boobs. Or, more accurately, boobs with swellings. Schools, music festivals, social media platforms; CoppaFeel! takes its message to young people anywhere they are, nevertheless it can.

Instead, its individuals shes fulfilled along the method who jump to mind. Like her close good friend who just recently had a malignant lump gotten rid of from her breast. If she didnt have a CoppaFeel, would she have examined her breasts! sticker label in her shower reminding her? Its an unneeded hypothetical, due to the fact that she did and now shes cancer-free. The exact same could be stated of thousands more people.

I hope I would have done something amazing with my life even without cancer

Flashing a Turd has definitely assisted in this regard, she admits. Among the salient realities to have struck her during composing are the positives provided by cancer. For all its terrible injustice, cancer brought purpose to her life, a factor to get up every early morning. Raising awareness of this illness has, strangely and all of a sudden, used her a lifeline.

Whatever the ups and downs, now aged 35, she testifies to moring than happy. Pleased to have actually survived this long; delighted to have people around her who she likes and who enjoy her (her bond with her twin sis and confidante, Maren, is particularly strong); happy with the easy things in life, like reading, composing and, yes, even swimming in the freezing Atlantic.

” On the outdoors, it appears like Im assisting individuals, however, while composing, Ive understood that theyve really been assisting me deal with cancer. I believe writing the book is the first time that Ive truly confessed that to myself.”

When talking of the lows, Hallenga strikes a similarly self-effacing tone. Her own illness, she barely mentions. Absolutely nothing about the full body scans every three months, the continuous oral chemotherapy, the near continuous discomfort, the periodic crises.

Even the brain tumour requiring emergency situation surgical treatment she established 2 years earlier is quickly dismissed. Thanks to “some really clever targeted gamma knife radiotherapy”, its now tamed.

” I always state: Right, Im done. Never again. But when it concerns selecting your pals or the people that you fall for, who ever really gets an option in that?”

” Its taken a lot for me to get here, however Im pleased– in a quite simplistic manner in which I believe is actually possible for everyone,” she reflects.

Fun and profane, Hallengas personality assists CoppaFeel! reach youths. Image: James Bowden

Hallengas focus, once again, falls on others. Those shes enjoyed and lost, especially. Her work brings her into contact with individuals with cancer all the time, many of whom end up being friends. Each time cancer takes them from her, she promises herself she wont befriend anybody with the disease again.

I want us to find our superpowers, our strengths, our big-ness without a terminal disease

Tomorrow, next week, next month, these can care for themselves. For Kris Hallenga, now, today, is for living, dreaming and for being.

Second, its not here yet. She has a message saved money on her phone from a now-departed buddy. Youve got a long way to go yet, it reads. “Its silly, but I do not wish to feel Ive let her down,” Hallenga states. “We are all going to pass away. Theres one thing for sure: Im not dead yet.”

Her 2nd revelation is more impressive still. And its this: “Im fantastic”. The assertion is not a boast, (although she instantly apologises for sounding “a bit of a knob”). Yet the impressive bit is concerning see that it isnt the metaphorical turd that made her fantastic. Her success, for desire of a much better term, was constantly within her.

None of this stops the cloud of death hiding. More than a years of dealing with cancer has assisted Hallenga come to terms with its existence. For one, death is a universal constant; lifes clock simply ticks that bit louder for her.

Twelve years after her medical diagnosis, Hallenga is set to launch a book: Glittering a Turd. Image: James Bowden

Glancing towards the weak winter sun, which has actually simply broken through the clouds, Hallenga shows that cancer has assisted her to be “cheered from the sidelines”, “to be allowed to be me”.

” What I suggest is that I hope that there was something within me that would have powered me to produce something unique and do something amazing with my life even without cancer. It shouldnt take cancer to do cool shit, I guess.”

” Were more proud of individuals whove attained through pain and suffering than those who are just being proud and unapologetically loud and fantastic and smart and pleased,” she states. “So, I desire us to discover our superpowers, our strengths, our big-ness without a terminal disease. I am giving everybody permission to exist completely without cancer. Without turds. Simply glitter.”

Main image: James Bowden

Twelve years ago this week, Kris Hallenga was told she had two and a half years to live. Kris Hallengas morning dips started a few years earlier., a cancer awareness charity that Hallenga set up simply 3 months after her diagnosis. For one, its offered Hallenga the space to process the highs and lows of her cancer journey. More than a years of living with cancer has actually helped Hallenga come to terms with its existence.

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