natalie haskell

Talking about breasts on a first meeting isn’t something we’re used to. But, with Natalie Haskell, CEO of CoppaFeel! it felt only right... right?

CoppaFeel! is the first breast cancer charity in the UK to solely create awareness amongst young people, with the aim of instilling the knowledge and tools they need to get to know their bodies. Their motto: why scare people when you can talk about a serious issue in a light-hearted way?

So how does its leader find the energy for continually empowering, encouraging, and educating – and who does the same for her? We sat down with her to find out…

Missoma: what’s your role at CoppaFeel!?

Natalie Haskell: I’m the CEO!

M: sum up the CoppaFeel! mission in one sentence…

NH: Our goal is to give everyone the best possible chance of surviving breast cancer by ensuring that it is diagnosed early and correctly.

M: what makes CoppaFeel! unique?

NH: We aim to equip everybody with the tools and knowledge to be proactive about their health and their breasts. Rather than giving others agency for our wellbeing, we are about empowering people to be their own advocates.

M: where do you see CoppaFeel! in 5 years?

NH: In an ideal world we wouldn’t need to exist because ALL people would be checking their boobs regularly.
Failing that, our ambition is to encourage, educate and empower all young people to be educated on the signs and symptoms of breast cancer. We want them to feel empowered to seek medical advice if they find anything that isn’t normal.

We will continue to normalise a checking behaviour, but we’ll also scale up our education programmes. We’ll do this by developing new digital tools and resources, facilitating and supporting teachers in the delivery of cancer education within schools as a part of PSHE, and continuing to partner with medical professionals to provide resources that speak to young people.

We also want to improve the accessibility of our message and better represent, amplify and support the voices of all of our beneficiaries.

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M: how did the charity start?

NH: CoppaFeel! was founded in 2009 by Kristin Hallenga and her twin sister Maren after Kris was diagnosed with secondary breast cancer at the age of 23.

After finding a lump at 22, living abroad in China for 8 months and eventually visiting her doctor 3 times, Kris was told the news that she had incurable breast cancer. Kris was unaware that breast cancer could affect people in their twenties and knew very little about the disease. It struck her that there was very little information out there for young people, educating them about the disease, how they could be looking after themselves, and informing them that breast cancer doesn’t just affect women over 50.

Although Kris will always live with cancer, she wanted to get the message out there to young people that catching cancer early means you have a higher chance of surviving and recovering. She wanted people to learn from her story and become proactive about their own health – the idea for CoppaFeel! was born.

M: coppafeel! is all about empowering, encouraging and educating – who empowers, encourages and educates you?

NH: There are heaps of people that l look up to and who motivate me every day. But in this job I feel fortunate to meet so many people who use their experiences and their stories to improve the outcomes of others. We have so many volunteers who are out there every day, raising awareness, raising funds and educating others to allow us to do what we do. It is those guys that push me to do better.

M: describe your AM to PM routine…

NH: It has been such a challenge to create a routine in lockdown. I try to hold off from looking at emails until I have had breakfast and taken a walk. Then the day will usually start by checking in on any news updates that impact upon our beneficiaries ability to secure an early diagnosis or impact upon the delivery of our services. I check in with the team most mornings – as a small charity we have tried as much as possible to maintain a lot of contact, so that we can collaborate and not be too isolated whilst working from home.

In Breast Cancer Awareness Month I spend some time exploring how we can raise more awareness during this key period – this might include exploring opportunities to incorporate our messaging with brand partners. I would also check in with our fundraising team to discuss the progress of any key fundraising activities and partnerships.

These activities really have been critical in allowing our charity to survive during lockdown and we really have had to innovate to try and plug the funding gap from postponed events this year.

I unwind in the evening by doing yoga, having dinner, and playing with my one year old Ted. And of course I’m prompted to check my boobs in the shower after a long day with one of our CoppaFeel! shower stickers.

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