Amanda Mealing discusses her breast cancer diagnosis
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Linda Munkley, from Bargoed, South Wales, said that her pets Enya and Bea first began acting strangely around her back in August 2018. Both canines kept jumping up and putting their paws on her chest, with five-year-old Bea even beginning to headbutt the 65-year-old.
Thinking that the Bea were misbehaving, Linda ignored the repetitive sniffing, but the German Shepherd persisted with her nuzzling.
Linda told Wales Online: “One day I was sat on the sofa when Bea jumped up and began intensely sniffing and headbutting my chest area. She had never done anything like this before so it was quite unusual but at the time I thought nothing of it.
“But then she kept constantly doing it every day, jumping up at me and really sniffing just my chest area – she was so determined and I couldn’t stop her from doing it at all.
“On and on this behaviour went so I began checking my chest to see if I could feel any lump but there was absolutely nothing out of the ordinary.”
Around six weeks later, Linda began to feel a tingling sensation spreading from her chest and under her arms, which left her very concerned.
It was around this time that three-year-old Enya began copying the same behaviour as Bea, so Linda decided to make a doctor’s appointment.
A mammogram was carried out in October 2018 shortly before going on holiday, which quickly revealed that the dog owner had an aggressive form of breast cancer.
She said: “While I was away, I knew something was wrong. I could feel there was a lump, and that it was spreading under my arms.
“Then, when I came back from holiday I had a letter waiting for me, telling me to go and see a surgeon two days after I got back.
“That’s when I knew something was wrong – because it seemed far too quick.”
Results confirmed that the mum of one had the human epidermal growth factor 2 (HER2) gene, which causes the cells to grow too fast and leads to the development of breast cancer.
She added: “I started chemotherapy and throughout that time Bea and Enya continued with their behaviour until after my third session of chemo when they both completely stopped all of a sudden.”
Doctors said that the cancerous cells in her lymph nodes were either non-malignant, or some were pre-malignant.
After six months of chemotherapy, a month of radiotherapy, and an operation to remove the lump, doctors told Linda she was cancer free.
Linda, who owns four German Shepherds, said: “The doctor was amazed. She told me to go home and give my dogs a hug, because they had saved my life.
“She said it was one of the most successful set of chemotherapy results they had ever seen.
“The cancer was aggressive, but my dogs had alerted me to it so early, before there was even a lump there, that the chemotherapy managed to kill off the cancerous cells completely.”
She said: “Words can’t describe how grateful I am to Bea and Enya. They saved my life.
“In the beginning, it never even dawned on me what they were doing. I just thought they were being nuisances.
“I have two male dogs, but they never detected anything was wrong – it was just my two girls.”
It is well known that pets, particularly dogs, have heightened senses hundreds of times better than those of humans.
This makes them ideal to be trained as assistance and medical detection pets so they can alert owners with health conditions of any serious impending medical event.
Research is also currently being undertaken to see if dogs can detect diseases, such as cancer, through smell.
Linda added: “We’ve always spoiled them and given them lots of attention.
“We’ve always bred dogs for show, so they’re very used to lots of people around and lots of attention. They’re so friendly.
“It just goes to show how incredible dogs really are.”
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