South Wales Police Federation is encouraging its members to check themselves during Breast Cancer Awareness Month after two brave officers shared the stories of their breast cancer journeys.
Tara McGovern and Tiff Lynch are both passionate about highlighting the importance of knowing your own body and regularly checking yourself to catch anything and get treatment as soon as possible.
Tara, a detective chief superintendent with the Met Police, found a lump in her breast on New Year’s Eve 2018 and two weeks later was diagnosed with breast cancer.
She had lost her mother to the disease when she was just 11 and so began regularly checking her own breasts every month.
Tara said: “When I found the lump, I knew it wasn’t right and I acted straight away. It was small and my surgeon was surprised I had even noticed it.
“But because I understood and knew my own body, I found it incredibly early and even though it was aggressive, I got through it. My oncologist said ‘I am going to make you feel dreadful for 18 months, but then you are going to live the rest of your life.’ And she was right.”
Tiff, a Police Federation National Board member and former Leicestershire Police Federation chair, was diagnosed with breast cancer last year in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.
She said scrolling through social media one day led to her doing a spur-of-the-moment check of her breasts.
Tiff said: “July 9th of last year, I will never forget the date, I was flicking through Twitter and I saw (sports presenter) Jacquie Beltrao talking about the importance of checking. I thought maybe I should do it. And there they were.
“Two pea-sized, hard lumps and I just knew straight away. I didn’t know how aggressive it was or if I had found it early or late. I could tell everyone around me wanted to ask me ‘so what happens next’ and I just didn’t know. Because I didn’t have the answers. But I knew I was going to fight it.”
South Wales Police Federation chair Steve Treharne said: “We care about the health and wellbeing of our members so would urge them all to use these two inspirational stories as a reminder of the importance of carrying out regular checks.
“Both colleagues have highlighted the importance of regular checks and we would urge everyone, women and men, to follow their advice.
“We thank them for sharing their stories and for helping to raise awareness of breast cancer and we wish them both well.”
Tara has spearheaded the launch of the Change and Check campaign, starting in the Met and spreading to forces nationally.
The campaign highlights the importance of checking your breasts, knowing the signs and symptoms and how to check.
She said: “It’s best to check yourself on a monthly basis, at the end of your menstrual cycle. Look in a mirror, lift your arms and look from your neck down to below your breasts. Check, feel and press with the flat of your fingers.
“If you’re menopausal, then just make sure it’s the same time every month – log it in your phone to remind you.
“It’s a straightforward, five-minute check. Don’t worry too much about the method at the start, just get to know your breasts. It can save your life.”
Tara and Tiff will be sharing more about their journeys, the Change and Check campaign and their advice in a series of short videos through October on our social media channels.
In a message to anyone who may be newly diagnosed, or worried about a possible diagnosis, Tara and Tiff say: “It’s going to be OK. It will be a rough ride, it will be tough and you will feel pretty lousy. But there is nothing that will be thrown at you that you won’t be able to deal with. It’s going to be OK.”