A new campaign from Macmillan Cancer Support called Let’s Talk About Death is urging people to talk more openly to their families about dying.
And there’s one amazing woman rallying behind it.
Kris Hallenga, the founder of breast cancer awareness charity CoppaFeel! spoke out in support of the campaign this week.
Writing in her regular column in The Sun, the 33-year-old activist urged readers to speak to family and friends about their dying wishes.
“It can get you thinking about who you would want making medical decisions on your behalf if you are no longer able to, whether or not you want a funeral and how to leave people access to your paperwork and passwords,” she said.
Following a diagnosis of advanced breast cancer ten years ago, aged just 23, the inspiring Kris founded CoppaFeel! with her twin sister Maren, to raise awareness of the disease and encourage young women to check their breasts more regularly.
Kris initially struggled to get a diagnosis after finding the lump, not receiving a diagnosis until nearly a year after she’d first been to the doctor with her concerns.
Kris, whose cancer subsequently spread to her pelvis, hips, liver and brain, is what is sometimes described as a ‘long-term survivor’ of the devastating disease – a term used for those who have done much better than predicted.
Kris falls into the small statistic of around 1 in 10 women diagnosed with stage-four breast cancer who live beyond five years. The amazing woman celebrated her ten-year ‘cancerversary’ in February of this year with a trip to Disneyland Paris.
Macmillan’s salient campaign features an online questionnaire that informs people of how prepared they are for dying, as well as advice on beginning the conversation with their loved ones. The Macmillan checklist of things to have in place includes writing down wishes for end of life care and treatment, making a will, deciding whether to be buried or cremated and registering wishes for organ and tissue donation.
“Dying isn’t just happening to those who have been given a terminal illness, it’s happening to us all,” said Kris.
“So the sooner we can get those awkward conversations, plans and wishes out in the open – or even just down on paper – the sooner we can get on with living.”
Though she has previously spoken of how much she has changed as a person in the 10 years since her diagnosis, Kris’ positivity and zest for life remains steadfast.
It is written into the contracts of CoppaFeel! staff members that they take the day off every 19 February (the anniversary of Kris’ diagnosis) to do something that reminds them why being alive is so amazing.
But it’s also, as this amazing woman reminds us, important to put plans in place for those we leave behind.
“Go on, stick the kettle on and be brave, you might just feel a whole heap lighter afterwards,” she said.