A women claimed her ‘unusually affectionate’ dog saved her life after he pawed at a cancerous lump in her breast.
Tanya Hibberd, 50, from Southampton, revealed she thought her usually independent husky, Sapphire, just wanted more cuddles after she had returned from a two-week holiday to Cyprus with her husband Gary Hibberd, 64, in 2018.
However, the persistent pooch, now six, continued to paw at the same spot on Tanya’s breast for four weeks until she decided to check and discovered a ‘massive gobstopper-sized’ lump.
Although, the mum-of-one regularly gets checked for lumps, she credits her dog Sapphire for saving her life.
As soon as she found the lump she visiting her GP and was diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer.
Triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) is a less common type of breast cancer that is sometimes described as a faster-growing type of breast cancer.
Paw-fect! Tanya Hibberd, 50, from Southampton, with her husky Sapphire, now six
Best boy! Sapphire pawed at a cancerous lump in Tanya’s breast and saved her life
The customer service team leader underwent gruelling chemotherapy, surgery and radiotherapy.
The then 46-year-old revealed that Sapphire was born on the day that her father passed away from non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
Tanya is now cancer free and wants to highlight that if your pet is acting out of character and starts to take more of an interest in you, then they may be trying to alert you to something.
Tanya said: ‘Sapphire is quite a lonely dog. She likes her own company, but she kept sitting on me and putting her head on my right breast every night, which was really unusual.
Sweet: Although, the mum-of-one regularly gets checked for lumps, she credits her dog Sapphire for saving her life
‘For four weeks she kept doing that, I just thought she was being cuddly.
‘I initially thought it was because we had been away for a two-week holiday but then it became more frequent and she spent longer snuggling into me.
‘I didn’t think anything of it and then one day she kept nudging there so I touched myself and discovered a lump. Sapphire saved my life.’
‘I’d been on holiday to Cyprus and had done the normal checks that I do every month and not noticed anything. When I came back I started feeling more tired than usual.
Congratulations! Tanya is now cancer free and wants to highlight that if your pet is acting out of character and starts to take more of an interest in you, then they may be trying to alert you to something
‘It felt massive and a bit like a gobstopper. I actually thought it was a cyst at first.
‘I got my husband to feel it and he said I needed to go to the doctor.’
The lucky dog owner went on to reveal her tumour was 3cm when she found it but grew to 5cm before she started chemotherapy at Southampton General Hospital in November 2018.
Tanya said she went through ’12 rounds of aggressive chemo’ and after the fifth week it had shrunk considerably.
Tanya said: ‘She’d still lay with me and if I was really poorly during chemo she’d lay with me under the covers, which is unusual for a husky as they’re quite warm animals.
Miracle: The then 46-year-old revealed that Sapphire was born on the day that her father passed away from non-Hodgkin lymphoma
Faith: She believes her dog ‘smelt her cancer’ and that she ‘chose her’ when the family went looking at puppies
Great news! Tanya said she went through ’12 rounds of aggressive chemo’ and after the fifth week it had shrunk considerably
WHAT IS TRIPLE NEGATIVE BREAST CANCER?
Triple negative breast cancer is a form of the disease that does not have receptors for the hormones oestrogen or progesterone, or the protein HER2.
This makes it trickier to treat due to the tumour not responding to these hormonal or protein therapies.
Triple negative breast cancer makes up around 10-to-20 per cent of all forms of the disease.
It tends to be more aggressive than other breast tumours, with patients having a worse prognosis.
The condition is more common in those under 40 and black women.
It is diagnosed via a sample of the cancerous cells.
Symptoms are similar to other forms of breast cancer.
These can include:
- Lump or thickening in the breast
- Change in the size, shape or feel of the breast
- Dimpling of the skin
- Change in the shape of the nipple
- Rash or blood-stained discharge coming from the nipple
- Swelling in the armpit
Treatment usually involves surgery, chemo and radiotherapy.
Chemo may be given first to shrink the tumour before a patient goes under the knife.
It may also be given after the operation to prevent the disease returning.
‘She’s now very protective of me. If I take her out for a walk she growls at people if they get too close to me.’
She believes her dog ‘smelt her cancer’ and that she ‘chose her’ when the family went looking at puppies.
‘We tell everybody that she smelt my cancer. When I found the lump I just thought ‘what a clever little dog she is’ and they say that they can smell things.
‘I may have found it but I don’t know. I checked myself three or four weeks before that and probably would have again in another couple of weeks.
‘But by then because of the type of cancer I had, it may have been too late to have the treatment or might not have been cured.’
After 20 sessions of radiotherapy which finished in July 2019, Tanya was declared cancer free.
Sapphire’s birthday is also on December 13th – the date Tanya’s dad Norman (Nobby) King passed away aged 67.
Tanya said: ‘She’s a very special dog. It’s really strange because I woke up one Saturday morning and decided I wanted a dog – I’d never had a dog before in my life.
‘We found Sapphire on a pet site, drove to Wolverhampton and she chose me – out of the three dogs that were available she wouldn’t leave me alone.
She was also told by a medium that Sapphire had come into her life ‘for a reason’.
‘A medium told me that she was sent there for a reason when she was a puppy.
‘Her birthday, the 13th December, is the date that my dad died so I think she was sent for a reason.
‘She’s very special and will always be very special in my heart. I think she saved my life.
‘I would just say that if you have a dog or pet that generally only wants cuddles on their terms and then they start taking an actual interest in you then maybe they are trying to tell you something.’