I first found the lump in my breast eighteen months ago in the shower. It was a Monday morning and I remember coming across something while washing under my arm. I say ‘something’ because to call it a lump wouldn’t really be accurate, it was more of an area of thickening. I had never made a point of checking my breasts (unless you can call giving them a once over in the mirror ‘checking’ – believe me I had good boobs!) so I guess you could say I was lucky to discover something was wrong.

Being super fit and healthy I hadn’t joined a GP surgery since moving to London from the North East. I knew this change in my breast needed checking out but in my mind it was nothing serious, just a box to tick to get the news it was just a cyst. Having no GP I went to a drop in centre, and as I sat on the bed the nurse told me she couldn’t feel anything. “It’s here,” I said, clutching my left breast.

“Well, let’s do this properly then, lie down.”

“Let’s do this properly? Really? Do we have to? God, you’re a real stickler for the rules, lady.”

Typing this now I can’t believe a health professional actually said that to me.  On further examination the nurse concluded she could feel something but told me that it was probably hormonal and that I should go and see my GP if it hadn’t gone by the end of my next period, three whole weeks away.

Strangely enough this woman didn’t fill me with confidence so I went to register at my local GP’s surgery. However, despite this practice being the nearest one to my flat, the receptionist informed me that my street was on the wrong side of the road to be able to join. When I explained that the NHS website had stated that I was eligible to become a patient there she left her seat, I assumed, to get the relevant forms for me to fill in. Instead she returned with a map and a highlighter pen. She then went on to expertly colour in the road where the boundary was.

“I really need an appointment.” I pleaded, conscious of the queue building up behind me.

“What’s wrong with you?” she asked, apparently considering cutting through the red tape if faced with a serious enough complaint. Tears started to fill in my eyes and my throat contracted as I felt obliged to air my private concerns in front of the eight people now waiting.

“I’ve found a lump in my breast.”

“Well you can’t join here,” came the reply, “you’ll have to find somewhere else.”

Apparently a possible case of breast cancer was deemed not significant enough to bend the boundary rules, so off I went to joining a GP’s surgery that was further away from my flat but devoid of a highlighter-wielding Nazi. The GP was a lovely bloke and got me straight to the one-stop clinic at a hospital where within a few hours I was diagnosed with breast cancer at the grand old age of 27. Boos all round.

Anyhoo, my point is that despite the vast amounts spent publicising breast cancer, young women with the disease are frequently misdiagnosed or fobbed off simply due to their youth. The other day I met up with the remarkable Kris Hallenga, founder of breast cancer charity CoppaFeel, who had an even more shocking experience of this kind of prejudice.

In 2008 Kris, then 22, went to her GP with a lump in her breast. She had a family history of breast cancer, but the doctor told her she was fine and that the lump was probably down to her being on the pill. Six months on and the lump had gotten bigger. Kris returned to her GP’s surgery, this time seeing another doctor. This particularly helpful chap told Kris he didn’t need to examine her because she’d been examined six months ago.

Kris’ mum insisted that she be referred to hospital and a biopsy showed she did indeed have breast cancer. A subsequent bone scan showed a tumour on her spine, meaning that Kris had secondary cancer and that it was incurable. She will never know if the cancer spread in those eight months that she waited to be referred.

When I tell friends I’ve met with Kris their first question is usually along the same lines as my brother’s immediate response on hearing her story. ‘Did she sue the fuck out of them?”

And the answer is no.

“I didn’t pursue any legal routes because I didn’t want to waste my time on these two stupid doctors. I wanted them to hear about my successes and how well I was doing in newspapers and TV when I’d managed to get the charity off the ground. That way I could reach lots of people instead of making two doctors bitter and angry, who hopefully regret that day for the rest of their lives anyway. And I wanted to take a positive approach and pursuing legal stuff is not exciting or fun!”

Kris could have ploughed her energy into a long, drawn out legal case, and let’s face it who could have blamed her for doing so? But instead she set up CoppaFeel, a charity aimed at 18-30 year-olds whose slogan is ‘knowing your boobs can save your life.’ Kris is doing what her doctors should have done and ensuring that young women are smart about their health. Who knows, she’s probably saving lives.

How many of us have found ourselves in a situation where someone has wronged us and we want revenge? Now, how many of us can say we took that shitty situation and turned it into a positive?

As you can tell from the blog I have been somewhat hung up on the two doctors who gave me months to live. I hope to learn from Kris and let go of the ‘whys’ and ‘what ifs’ just get on with living the best life possible.

Check out CoppaFeel! here


39 Comments (+add yours?)

    Oct 20, 2011 @ 16:11:53

    I’m learning so much through your blogs. Thank you Ellie! x


  2. Matthew Seymour (@MWSeymour)
    Oct 20, 2011 @ 16:22:49

    Was going to reply with another tweet but thought it would need a few more of precious characters…

    This is the same reason why people don’t trust politicians etc because they say they will do something to fix a situation, whatever it may be, get a good bit of PR from it, then move on and forget all about it.

    That is why it ends up being left to the real people who care like yourself and Kris to help fix what others fail spectacularly at.

    I don’t think that woman behind the counter at the first surgery should expect her wedding invite anytime soon 🙂



    • Ellie Jeffery
      Oct 20, 2011 @ 16:28:51

      The highlighter wielding Nazi is off both the Christmas card and wedding lists! Thanks for reading Matt, Ellie x


      • Matthew Seymour (@MWSeymour)
        Oct 20, 2011 @ 16:41:12

        After Mr Bannatynes tweet 2 or 3 days ago I went through and started from blog number 1. So with the power of the super RSS feed I shall continue to do so 🙂

        Never liked highlighters anyway, someone always borrows them and give them back without the lid. Much like the highlighter wielding nazi, the highlighters on my desk are also completely useless.


  3. Alan Charnock
    Oct 20, 2011 @ 16:24:33

    great blog, leave the arguing to other people and get on with living and I dont know if you know, but the link to coppafeel is broke or you have crashed the site by putting to many visits on it.


  4. Rachel L
    Oct 20, 2011 @ 16:50:47

    What an awful doctor’s receptionist, why does red tape get in the way of compassion? I think you are so right to take inspiration from Kris, I will definitely take it on board. I have heard of coppafeel, what a great charity. So many people/doctors etc would dismiss symptoms purely because of age. I am the same age as you Ellie and definitely guilty of not checking as often as I should, and although I don’t know exactly what I am looking for (you said yours was more of an area of thickening?) I guess the point is if you do it reguarly enough you know what doesn’t feel right.

    Great post as always 🙂 Rachel x


  5. Paul Clare
    Oct 20, 2011 @ 18:24:55

    Inspiring as always. You are doing a truly wonderful job with this blog x
    I’m off to look at the coppafeel site…


  6. Simon Lyon
    Oct 20, 2011 @ 19:45:02

    Hi Ellie,

    I my wife alerted me to your story in Grazia and I felt compelled to get in touch.

    I was diagnosed with a rare form of bowel cancer but now I enjoy health restoration way beyond what I ever did before.
    I was rushed into hospital only to wait 72 hours for an emergency appendectomy with nothing to eat or drink but liquid morphine! It turned out that there was a tumour in my appendix and it was perforated and cancerous which the hospital decided to tell about after 2 months.

    Due to attending health talks by researcher Phillip Day all about cancer, I knew that there were other more natural options available to me. And when the oncologist when asked flipently said “eat what you like Mr Lyon” alarm bells rang

    During a further examination, I refused further surgery and biopcies as I had heard that surgery actually has the ability to spread the cancer (The Doctor performing the examination was most peturbed “but we need to know which part of the bowel to remove” she said as if it was nothing to do with me) and after all you’re only treating the symptom not the cause as modern medicine does. This to me is like finding a plant in your garden which is wilting and only watering its leaves. One has to get to the root of the problem which make perfect common sense right?

    I changed my diet over night from standard english western diet to vegan raw living foods with wheat grass shots and alkalising green juices, among many other practices, like infa red saunas, colonics and enemas (not coffee but pure water followed with wheat grass implants), rusian energy medicine, Cosmodic Scenar, gall bladder and liver flush eating apple and garlic for 4 days straight and then having a colonic (approx 1500 pieces of hardened bile, which often block the bile ducts and stop the liver from functioning well). The parasite cleanse from was the best most gentle and natural on the market and the only one I would recomend (google mucoid plaque for some interesting insights) and much much more and the difference is amazing. I also visited Hippocrates health institute in florida, which I would recomend to anyone as a first port of call if they are unwell (mention my name and contact me to get a voucher to spend whilst there to spend on treatments and supplements etc.) HHI have the highest cancer reversal rate of anywhere in the world and have 40 years worth of scientific evidence of the benefits of natural treatments for cancer that are disgregarded by the medical professions who only recieve information about what ever new drugs are being marketed.

    At this point I have to say it is a good idea if your not already to get rid of as many chemicals from your house as possible. This includes spray deodorants (which have aluminium) spraying aluminium into your lymph nodes especially with breast cancer is not a good idea. You probably know this but you can buy a perfectly good rock salt roll on deodorant from your local health food shop.

    The other thing is any bra which is anything but organic cotton has to be illiminated, and no underwires which act as electro magnetic radiation conductors!

    There is a great book all about this which you can get from amazon or direct from Hippocrates called ‘Killer Clothes’. This will give you the scientific knowhow behind the benifits of wearing natural fibres only. The fact is when you wear synthetic fibres your body is unable to illimate toxins through the skin as normal, these stay in your body and build up in your least important organs first, namely the reproductive organs that are no essential for life, hence the rise in breast, prostate and cervial cancer since the 70’s and the introduction of mass produced synthetic clothing. Also check out their other books to get you on the true path to happiness and health.

    There are lots of safe personal care product on the market from a good health food shop that don’t contain the likes chemicals also found in engine degreasent and break fluid! Home cleaning and clothes washing chemicals need to be swiched for safe alternatives.

    As for EMF (electro magnetic fields) these are somthing that we all should protect ourselves from and can easily. Get in touch with me and I can advise you more about this.

    I’ve met people along the way with complex stage 4 brain tumours, lung, breast and a whole other host of “diseases” and they now live full, happy, healthy lives free from cancer as my results proved after I had my arm twisted to have a CT scan.

    I am in the process of setting up a business / charity called
    to help people with understanding what cancer is, what causes it and how best to restore health to its optimum. (NB watch videos from here re the dangers of conventional ‘cut poison burn’ treatments.)

    I will be happy to help you and anyone in your position further. Contact me though my website or call on 01376 529898

    Best wishes (you will get to your wedding and beyond!)

    Simon Lyon


    • Ellie Jeffery
      Oct 21, 2011 @ 09:16:06

      Thank you so much for this information Simon and the time you put into your post. I had heard of Hippocrates and my brother was keen for me to visit. I’ll certainly be checking out the websites you’ve recommended. I’m so pleased you are now doing well and am in awe of your determination to get better. Thank you for sharing your story, Ellie x


      • Simon Lyon
        Oct 21, 2011 @ 21:01:14

        You’re welcome Ellie Dr’s Brian and Anna Marie Clement there are the best in the world in my opinion. After researching for a long time finding Hippocrates was my golden moment.
        I also found that apricot kernels work fantastically with regard to cancer reversal.
        They’re quite bitter but full of antioxidents. Doctors claim that they have cianide in them and they do but it is contained within its molecular structure and can unlike chemo distinguish cancerous cells from healthy ones. Also known as B17 metabolic therapy it targets and gently eliminates only the cancer cells. Quantum Healing is a great book! May I also suggest “Cancer is not a disease, it’s a survival mechanism” By Dr Andreas Moritz. for amazing all round phyisical, mental emotional and spiritual clarity.

        Plus The amazing documentry “Cut Poison Burn”

        Best Wishes


  7. Talky
    Oct 20, 2011 @ 22:21:04

    I read this blog and don’t know what to say….it makes me smile, it makes me sad, I actually said a prayer for you for the first time in 20 odd years….but whatever I feel you are a superstar Ellie…


  8. Peas and Cougars
    Oct 20, 2011 @ 22:31:59

    Good for you for trusting your instincts! I’m about the same age as you, so it’s hard to believe that something like breast cancer (or any cancer) could happen to *you.* That’s something that happens to *other* people. But the more people that know these stories, the more people that can be saved. Thank you for being strong enough to share yours!


  9. Fiona Cole
    Oct 21, 2011 @ 13:52:30

    Hi Ellie
    Your secondary cancer sucks, but I firmly believe ‘all battles are first won in the mind’ as Joan of Arc said and you seem to be all over this idea like a bad suit. And your approach to what you’re experiencing will I’m sure serve you well in your recovery to health. Have you read Quantum Healing by Deepak Chopra? He could be right up your street, it’s powerful stuff. Also I know a great meditation to help protect your white blood cells while having chemo, let me know if you’re interested and I’ll write it up for you, I used it while I had my chemo for breast cancer.
    All the very best wishes and positive vibes to you Ellie, your blog is really interesting, keep it up and remember all those who have signed up as I have, are with you now in your battle. Fiona x


  10. Anne-Marie
    Oct 21, 2011 @ 14:03:56

    Another twitter person through Clare. Sat and read through your blog here at work (boss=husband so I think I can handle the fallout; as my daughter says, he can hardly sack me!). Apart from anything else, commented on so well by others, I hope I may be a little better at helping friends living through this experience after reading your tales.

    Just wanted to add my best wishes.


    • Ellie Jeffery
      Oct 21, 2011 @ 14:31:43

      Thank you for those good wishes Anne-Marie and thank you for taking the time out to read the blog. Sending health and happiness to your friends who are going through a similar experience, Best, Elliex


  11. Becoming herself
    Oct 21, 2011 @ 19:51:56

    I hope you continue to speak with your grace and passion and eloquence about these issues. You have a gift with words and as well as telling your own moving and important story, you also speak for those who for one reason or another find it difficult to do so for themselves. All power to you.


  12. Hannah
    Oct 24, 2011 @ 19:36:19

    Hi Ellie. I’ve seen Kris several times on tv promoting her charity and thought how inspirational she is. Another brilliant bog entry my dear, keep it up! Big hugs, Hxx


  13. dr. Krisztina Ádám
    Oct 25, 2011 @ 10:56:40

    Hi Ellie!
    I have been visiting your blog for two months. I’m a Hungarian GP in a 2000 habitants village. I’ve been working as a doctor for 15 years. Your honesty and kindness are very impressed on me. I have a wonderful patient your age who is suffering from a recidivist ovarium tumor. She loves her life as you do. She has a lot of energy and vitality during her struggle with her disease. Every day huge amount of patients (60-70/day) come round me with their complaints. Most of them are waiting for me to give them energy, faith, understanding, sympathy and relief. Only some exceptions like you and my lovely patient are able to “treat” the doctor. I get a lot and learn the really important things from you.
    Thank you for everything you do and will do any time.
    (sorry for my English, I hope it is quite understandable) Take care of yourself.
    Greetings from Hungary: dr. Krisztina Ádám


    • Ellie Jeffery
      Oct 25, 2011 @ 10:59:52

      Hello Dr Krisztina,
      How good to hear that the blog is reaching Hungary! I’m pleased doctors like yourself are reading the blog. I wish your young patient a healthy and happy future. Thank you for reading, Ellie xx


  14. ChloeGreene21
    Oct 25, 2011 @ 13:04:48

    Hi Ellie
    I salute you for your grace, courage and humour and will tell all my friends about your amazing and inspirational life. And you write wonderfully.
    I’ve spent the morning reading your blog and want others to read it too.


  15. asloveunfoldsGeoff Major
    Oct 26, 2011 @ 18:17:18

    As always, you bring to life the essence of real-life tangible emotion in your words.

    Hope you’re day has been a good one Ellie.


  16. Geoff Major
    Oct 26, 2011 @ 18:18:11

    Err my name is simply ‘Geoff Major’. Thanks blog site for adding the ‘romance’


  17. claire
    Oct 28, 2011 @ 23:45:02

    Hi Ellie, Hope all is ok with you, love hearing your news it’s inspiring, I first heard of you in Grazia. if you would like a weekend away let me know as I have flat in Valencia so if you want a weekend away in the city centre (it’s gorgeous) then my son (age 5) and I can be away (so easy) and flights are cheap there are 3 beds and three bathrooms so please have a weekend… and bring your friends… you are welcome.. xxxx let me know xxx


  18. Em Smith
    Oct 29, 2011 @ 23:18:17

    Found the blog via twitter and didn’t want to just read it all without leaving a comment. You have a fantastic way with words and it is very inspiring to read your thoughts as a very close family member is going through a similar time at the moment. Sending you lots of love, hope and positive thoughts xx


    • Ellie Jeffery
      Oct 30, 2011 @ 19:13:59

      Thanks for stopping by and leaving your kind comment Emma. I’m in need of those positive thoughts at the moment so thank you! x


      • Simon Lyon
        Oct 31, 2011 @ 21:46:58

        Hi Ellie

        Re positivity, there is no place on earth in my opinion more positive than Hippocrates Health Institute. 🙂

        It’s a place where miracles happen

        Best wishes


  19. Abbas
    Oct 30, 2011 @ 19:24:32

    Another brilliant and inspiring blog entry Ellie. Hope you’ve had a good week…


  20. Lucy Bowman
    Nov 16, 2011 @ 10:20:08

    I can’t even begin to think of what you hav gone through or what yr going through, your words alone are a inspiration to all us women who complain at the silliest things like the alarm clock going off in the morning, the milk been out of date and most of all a bad hair day! Reading this blog made me ashamed of bn a nurse and apart of the NHS for the fact of refusing registration of a GP surgery and most of all the nurse who stated “let’s do this properly” we are in this profession to care and provide excellent standards of care to our patients, not just fob them off! If that was me yr age, your young age would of been more of a concern to me, you would of been on the first list for a ultra sound scan! I just don’t know what some medical staff are thinking sometimes! Your positivity is fantastic, my cousin who is 26 has also got a brain tumour and I always get really emotional to think that this thing (can’t really give it a name) as it has just developed with out asking and taking over his life without permission! But his positivity is fantastic to, and like you and Tom always tell each other you love each other! We always just say the word Livestrong….. It was also used by my brother who also had testicular cancer! It’s our word for “we will kick the f**k out if this invader…… And Livestrong!! All our Livestrongs go to you to Ellie x x x


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