Amy Dowden: I probably would not be here right now without CoppaFeel! founder

The professional dancer said she found a lump in her breast months after she started checking them, following a CoppaFeel! trek.

Amy Dowden has paid tribute to the late CoppaFeel! charity founder Kris Hallenga
Amy Dowden has paid tribute to the late CoppaFeel! charity founder Kris Hallenga (Doug Peters/PA)

Strictly Come Dancing star Amy Dowden has said she “probably wouldn’t be sat here right now” without the late Kris Hallenga and added that the CoppaFeel! charity founder will continue to save lives.

Ms Hallenga died at the age of 38 after living with terminal secondary breast cancer for 15 years.

CoppaFeel! was founded in 2009 by Ms Hallenga and her twin Maren and it became the mission of the charity to educate young people about why they should start checking from a younger age so that all breast cancer is diagnosed early.

Dowden, 33, revealed in May 2023 that she had been diagnosed with stage three breast cancer and due to treatment she was unable to compete in the most recent series of Strictly.

The Welsh dancer had completed a CoppaFeel! trek with podcast host Giovanna Fletcher before she began to check her breasts, finding a lump months later on the day before she went on her honeymoon with fellow dancer Ben Jones.

Speaking on ITV morning programme Lorraine, Dowden said: “I did the Pembrokeshire trek and it was on that trek I was speaking to the most wonderful trekkers.

“I realised I’m here advertising, raising awareness to check yourself and I don’t even check myself.

“So from that trip I started to check myself and just a few months later, I found my lump and so if it wasn’t for CoppaFeel!, if it wasn’t for Kris, I probably wouldn’t be sat here right now.”

Reflecting on her legacy, Lorraine added: “We’ll never know how many lives she saved actually.”

Dowden responded: “And she’s going to continue to save these lives as well.”

Dowden said that she will take part in the Brecon Beacons trek in June, alongside Fletcher, which will raise money for the breast cancer awareness charity.

On Instagram, she reflected on Ms Hallenga’s legacy and said: “What a woman! What a difference she has and will continue to make.”

Comedian Dawn French was friends with the founder and shared photos of the two to her Instagram.

In the comments of a video posted to Ms Hallenga’s Instagram she wrote: “Such a bright light, a true beauty inside & out. I will always love her.”

TV presenter Fearne Cotton joins supporters of breast cancer charity CoppaFeel!
TV presenter Fearne Cotton joins supporters of breast cancer charity CoppaFeel! (Ben Birchall/PA)

Singer Perrie Edwards, who found fame in the pop group Little Mix, also paid tribute to the founder and wrote on Instagram: “Heartbreaking. So sad to see this beautiful, courageous girl go.

“You did so much for so many people, I’ve never met anyone so strong and inspiring.

“Thinking of you, your family and loved ones!”

Broadcaster, author and podcast host Fearne Cotton has been an avid fundraiser for the charity since meeting Ms Hallenga 14 years ago.

“When you were with her almost anything was possible. She would have an idea and two minutes later you’d be trying to plan how to bring it to life,” she said, sharing a series of pictures on Instagram.

“She rarely took no for an answer in the best way possible; getting the best musicians out there to play at our charity festival for @coppafeel or convincing others to run marathons with giant boobs strapped to them.

“She lived fully, more than I’ve ever seen anyone live.

“… She saw small chinks of light as potential and opportunity. Her face was pure sunshine not only because she was as beautiful as an angel but also because she was kind and caring and vibrant.

“She asked me to design her a tattoo a few years ago and I’m proud to say a hand drawn trapeze artist sat across the scar on her chest.”

Cotton said she would be lighting a candle “for my dear mate who not only touched my life but saved many others”.

Kelsey Parker, whose husband Tom Parker from The Wanted died in 2022 at the age of 33 after being diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumour, said she was “sat here in tears and not knowing what to write”.

“Thank you Kris for bringing this wonderful charity into my life when I needed it the most and for getting me out walking when all I felt was pain and for letting me hold space for inspiring women like yourself, what a legacy you have created,” she said on Instagram.

“A true inspiration to all, Kris has shown the world how in the darkest of times you can shine light, raise awareness and help thousands of people.

“Living with secondary cancer for 15 years a f****** warrior BUT lost to soon to a horrible disease.

“…But I tell you we will walk hard for you Kris on Saturday a walking marathon in your Honour @coppafeel.”

Other stars paid tribute including former Countdown star Carol Vorderman, The Great British Bake Off winner Candice Brown and Fletcher.

Ms Hallenga’s death was confirmed with a statement on the charity’s website.

“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,” it said.

“She was simply living. She was 38 and died with fulfilment and a heart full of love.”

The statement said her dream was that one day CoppaFeel! would no longer need to exist and late diagnosis of breast cancer might be eradicated in her lifetime.

With this in mind she campaigned for cancer education to be included in the school curriculum and wrote Glittering A Turd, which went on to become a best-selling book.

“Please remember the amazing life Kris led and the things she achieved, but above all else honour her memory by checking your chest… it could just save your life,” the statement added.