The chief constable of West Yorkshire Police has shared her experience of being treated for breast cancer in the hope that others will carry out checks on themselves more regularly.
In a guest blog for the Disabled Police Association, Dee Collins has told of finding a lump eight years ago which was diagnosed as stage one cancer.
She stayed at work as assistant chief constable at Derbyshire Police through radiotherapy, a period which she said in the long-run “made me stronger”.
Miss Collins, an officer of 30 years who is also president of the British Association for Women in Policing, penned the blog as part of October’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
In her piece, she wrote that she would check her body to avoid injuries which would stop her playing sport. But in April 2009, she found “an unexplained very hard lump just below the tissue in my left breast and sitting next to my rib cage”.
She added: “Rather than ignore it or think it wasn’t anything to worry about, I picked up the phone and rang through to my doctor’s surgery and asked for an appointment.
“I was asked to go in straight away and my GP examined me and said ‘I don’t think it is a cyst and I am going to refer you immediately to the breast clinic at the local hospital.’ I guess I already knew at this point that it was something serious.”
After a scan confirmed the lump was cancer, she required “exhausting” radiotherapy and needed to take the “ghastly but necessary” medicine tamoxifen for more than two years.
She also spoke of how meeting other women going through breast cancer – although men can have it as well – was “very humbling and moving”.
Miss Collins, who joined West Yorkshire Police as deputy chief constable in January 2014, said: “It has made me even more resilient, very appreciative of others, and every morning I wake up grateful that I am here to carry on living a (now) cancer-free life helping others.”