BY TOBY PORTER
A senior police chief battling breast cancer has teamed up with TV host Lorraine Kelly to get women to check they do not have the disease.
Lewisham Detective Superintendent Tara McGovern appeared on Tuesday morning’s show called Lorraine to back the Scot’s Change and Check campaign.
Tara, who found a lump two days before New Year’s Eve 2018, has now set up a group called Breast Mates, to support people in the Met with breast cancer and their families.
She had been at home recovering from chemotherapy last month when she saw Lorraine launch the campaign and asked the show to help her spread the message across the force.
The 46-year-old, who launched the Met’s Network of Women (NoW) last year, found helpers to put up 10,000 campaign stickers – the show’s largest order –urging women to see if they have lumps which might be an early sign of the disease.
They list the symptoms of breast cancer such as lumps, rashes and dimpling and have been placed in locker rooms, gym changing rooms and toilets across 320 of the Met’s properties, including 80 police stations.
Tara said: “The response from Lorraine and her team was better than I could have hoped for. They have provided us with 10,000 stickers to display in Met buildings to encourage women to check their breasts regularly.
I also plan to work with forces across the country to ensure the message is pushed to our colleagues outside of London.
“It was brilliant to appear on the Lorraine show this morning, even if it helps just one person I’ll be happy – although I really hope people will hear the message and start checking themselves regularly!”
Lorraine Kelly said: “We’re thrilled to hear the Met is joining our Change and Check breast cancer campaign.
Breast cancer affects one in eight women and early detection can make all the difference.
“The Change and Check stickers were the brainchild of our producer Helen Addis.
When Helen was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer last April, it hit the team like a ton of bricks. “But Helen showed real grit.
She was determined to get the word out there and make sure women were being as vigilant as possible.
“It’s taken another woman, Detective Superintendent Tara McGovern, to push for the stickers to be used in Met buildings. She was off sick when she first heard about them.
“She spoke to the relevant people within the force to make it happen. Like Helen, she wanted something positive to come out of her own situation.
Hopefully more women will see them and check their boobs as a result.”
Tara has been told that her prognosis is very good, because she found the cancer early. Her mum died of the disease aged 42 when Tara was just 11.
She knew the disease can strike anyone and so asked her GP how to check her breasts properly and has done every month since her early 20s.
When she felt a lump she immediately knew it was not right. “I should have been getting ready to go out for a night on the tiles and look forward to the New Year,” she said. “I’m always the first in the queue for a good shindig! Instead, I was at the doctors’ surgery discussing a lump I had found in my breast two days earlier.
“Within two weeks the lump was confirmed as breast cancer and my life had turned upside down. My plans, work, holidays – everything was put on the back burner as I came to terms with what this diagnosis meant for me.
“I had no control. I kept contemplating what was going to happen to me, if I would respond to treatment, the impact it would have on my family and work. All those things were really tough. I just wanted to know the plan, get on with it and get my life back on track.
“The lump was small and my surgeon was surprised I had even noticed it.
It’s a good job I did notice it because the cancer was aggressive, it was already in my nodes and if I hadn’t of found it when I did, it would have spread around my body.”
Tara had just been transferred to Central Specialist Crime – her main career target.
She said: “I thought the timing could not have been worse. But when is a good time to discover you have cancer?” The lump shrank during chemotherapy so surgery needed is minimal.
“I feel lucky, positive and can’t wait to get back to my life,” Tara said.
“What could have been a major derailment has instead been a minor unpleasant detour, all because I found the lump early. “I’ll be back soon – wiser, fitter, stronger and feeling positive, grateful and extremely lucky.
I have had great support from the Met as well as an amazing network of colleagues, friends and family around me.” As well as getting support from her colleagues and line managers, Tara joined the Met’s Cancer Support Group.
The self-help support group regularly meets and has email forums and aims to offer support to the police family when faced with a cancer diagnoses as well as to support their loved ones and carers and those in bereavement.
Tara, who launched the Met’s Network of Women (NoW) last year, has now set-up a group called Breast Mates, which will sit under the Cancer Support Group.
Breast Mates is a support group for people in the Met diagnosed with breast cancer, as well as for those whose loved ones have been diagnosed with the disease.
She said: “I know helped with how I have been able to deal with my treatment and some of the side effects. I want to ensure anyone diagnosed in future has a ‘buddy’ to speak to for support.
“I know it’s tough for some of these women – treatment is brutal and sometimes goes on for years. I plan to open this group up nationwide, because I know that if I had been diagnosed in the counties I would have been very isolated.
“Change and Check a fantastic campaign – It’s so simple but so effective. I wanted to raise awareness among my colleagues and friends anyway. Hardly any of them were checking themselves – they said they were too young and they will wait for their screening when they turn 50.
But the disease can strike anybody and the sooner you find it and seek treatment the better. When I saw the campaign on Lorraine I knew it was a great way to spread the word. “I want my male colleagues to encourage their families to check themselves – and of course breast cancer is also possible in men.
“If we can help just one person then it has been worth it. “Get to know your body and what’s ‘normal’ for you and if you don’t like the feel of something go to your GP – they won’t mind if it’s nothing.
It may be a little inconvenient but it could save your life and ensure you have many more nights out on the tiles.”