National Got Checked Day takes place on Aug. 26 and aims to encourage women (and men!) to do their regular breast cancer checks. In honor of the day, Blue Yonder associate Jessica Thatcher shares her connection to breast cancer and why it’s important to get checked.

According to the World Health Organization, by the end of 2020, there were 7.8 million women alive who were diagnosed with breast cancer in the past five years, making it the world’s most widespread cancer.

In 2020, my family experienced first-hand the difficult journey of cancer, when my Aunt Siobhan was diagnosed during the COVID-19 pandemic at 48 years old. Siobhan underwent treatment, chemotherapy, and clinical trials, all whilst managing day-to-day life, including homeschooling her 12-year-old son and raising their new puppy. Unfortunately, on May 31, 2022, Siobhan passed from breast cancer, after being in treatment for two years.

I look back in awe at the grit and determination that people – like my aunt – who are living with cancer possess; sometimes it is difficult to even comprehend, and those who have supported their loved ones through similar experiences will understand this too.

Since learning of my aunt’s diagnosis, my family and I have felt it was our duty to raise awareness, ensuring money continues to be raised and giving support to those impacted. In December 2022, I decided to sign up for a MoonWalk challenge, which involved walking a 26.2 marathon in Iceland hosted by Walk the Walk, a UK-based charity which is united against breast cancer.

My training plan included walking across the city of London trying to rack up the miles, with my favourite route being Putney to Chalk Farm, and back (15.6 miles total). It’s easy to look for the most convenient way to get around where we live for ease, but walking allowed me to visit some of the best places in London and sightsee like a tourist along the way, to places such as Buckingham Palace, St. James’s Park, Little Venice and much more. All whilst striving to have an active and healthy lifestyle.

When the challenge finally arrived, I was super nervous as I would be undertaking the challenge with a group of strangers, and naturally I was worried about whether I had done enough training to complete the full marathon. I was greeted at Heathrow Airport by people from all over the world, and of all ages and walks of life – all with one common goal in mind. Over the coming days, these individuals would become dear friends, and we would form a strong bond in the pursuit of completing this marathon. The challenge itself involved walking in the midnight sun from midnight through to nearly 8 a.m., around Lake Mývatn. I really wanted to soak in every moment of this challenge, and speaking to different people along route, really spurred me on when it felt like the lake was never-ending.

Upon completion, we were all rejoiced and were filled with pride as, in addition to finishing the marathon, we also learnt that our team had raised over £50,000 for Walk the Walk! These funds will be granted to other charities and organisations throughout the UK, with the ambition of treating breast cancer.

Whilst treatments have improved over the years, there is still some way to go with advancing treatments to improve survival rates and the recurrence of breast cancer. This is why it is important to check our breasts regularly. Thanks to the vital work of cancer charities in recent years, many people are now checking their breasts, seeking treatment sooner and surviving breast cancer. It is important to not only check our breasts but be aware of the symptoms and potential signs to spot. This applies to men too; most male breast cancers are found by self-checking their chest or noticing changes.

The World Health Organization notes that symptoms of breast cancer can include the following:

  • A breast lump or thickening, often without pain
  • Change in size, shape or appearance of the breast
  • Dimpling, redness, pitting or other changes in the skin
  • Change in nipple appearance or the skin surrounding the nipple
  • Abnormal or bloody fluid from the nipple

In many cases, breast lumps are not cancer. However, it is important to check regularly and if you notice any changes, seek medical support as soon as possible.

Having completed the MoonWalk challenge and being inspired by my aunt, I encourage everyone to actively and regularly self-check, as well as to spread awareness and help raise funds in the fight against cancer!