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Legacy of Dudley police officer who died of breast cancer 'lives on', as colleagues pay tribute

The West Midlands Police Federation has paid tribute to its former deputy chair, who tragically died of breast cancer earlier this year.

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Sam Hughes (left) died of breast cancer earlier this year. She is pictured with best friend, Jameela Ismail.

Sam Hughes from Kingswinford was 53 when she died of cancer, and her colleagues have marked the end of Breast Cancer Awareness Month by paying tribute to Sam.

Her best friend, federation member Jameela 'Jam' Ismail, first met Sam Hughes 19 years ago while on the response team.

The pair’s friendship quickly blossomed, and they became inseparable both at work and socially.

To mark the end of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, which runs annually throughout October, Jameela has told how Sam’s cancer experience continues to impact her colleagues and friends within West Midlands Police.

“Sam was a petite, five-foot-something woman - I don’t think anyone expected her to be the strong-willed, fiery police officer that she was,” said 48-year-old Jam.

“The girl could definitely hold her own. But that’s what I loved about Sam. She was a strong woman, full of opinion - but equally kind, loyal and caring. The best mixture. I miss her dearly.

“She thrived in the role, it suited her perfectly. She just wanted to help people. She was absolutely gutted not to get her 20-years-in-service recognition. She was just a few months off.”

Born in Wolverhampton, Sam joined the police force in 2003 and was first diagnosed with cancer in 2017.

In 2020 Sam became a federation workplace representative, going on to become deputy chair at the branch in 2021.

Shortly after taking on the position, Sam was given a devastating second cancer diagnosis. On March 15 this year, the mother-of-two died.

“Sam put on a tough exterior but I know how scared she was. She didn’t have an option. She had cancer,” explained Jam.

“And the thing with Sam was, she liked to be in control - and when it came to cancer, she wasn’t in control. The treatment and hospital appointments dictated her life.

“That said, she was always very positive and pragmatic, even up until those final few days.”

Jam told how Sam was determined to use her experience to support others. She worked hard to develop a booklet full of tips and advice for anyone diagnosed with a serious illness.

“She was always very open and honest about her diagnosis. She never had a problem talking about cancer,” continued Jam, who recalls the pair spending countless Saturdays during Sam’s treatment, chilling together, watching TV, eating snacks and catching up.

“She even talked about dying. In fact, five weeks before she died Sam took me to the hospice she would be in when the end came.”

Jam said that Sam’s legacy has massively impacted everyone at West Midlands Police Force, adding: “Whether it’s the women checking their breasts or the men telling their other halves to check themselves, Sam’s experience has shown everyone that cancer can happen to anyone, whatever age you are.

“She did all she could to raise awareness of the disease. Sam wouldn’t want us to cry for her. She would want her legacy to live on. She would be very proud to know that she is still helping people, even when she’s not here.”

Colleague Tim Rogers added: "Sam carried on working right to the end, trying to make a difference. Even though she was petrified, she still tried to make a difference to others.

“She was an amazing, inspirational and genuine lady. She came into the federation role with a firm desire to use her own experiences to help others. Sam always thought of everyone else.

"It is heartbreaking that her life has been cut short. She will be sorely missed and our thoughts are with her husband, Shaun, her two children, wider family, friends and colleagues."

For information on how to properly check your breasts visit the NHS website.