Puppy diagnoses owner with breast cancer
CanWest News Service
Saturday, June 16, 2007
NANAIMO - Two-year-old Freeman, a rare catahoula leopard dog with boundless energy, might very well be the reason his owner Darcy Ingram is alive.
"He's my peach," said Ingram, after Freeman smacked her with a wet lick on the cheek.
In December 2005, at just six months of age, Freeman sniffed out what Ingram's doctors assured her was not there - a cancerous tumour in her right breast.
"He kept hurting me and hurting me," said Ingram, a glowing picture of health. "He wouldn't leave that breast alone."
One day, Freeman's powerful snout knocked Ingram's breast: "It swelled up like a cantaloupe."
"That's when all the fun started."
A whirlwind of doctors' appointments quickly followed, leaving Ingram, 41, without a right breast and without a combined 12 centimetres of multiple tumours, some of which were more than a year old.
For decades, anecdotal evidence has pointed to dogs' ability to sniff out cancer and, last year, researchers found further evidence to prove the theory.
Scientists tested ordinary household dogs with basic puppy training and discovered they could detect cancer just by smelling the breath of lung and breast cancer patients. The findings were published in the March 2006 journal Integrative Cancer Therapies.
The day before Ingram's mastectomy, she withdrew from her creative writing courses at Malaspina University-College.
Through the fatigue, pain and what she described as a "fractured mind," Ingram managed to write more than 30 poems, some describing her condition.
In them she writes of her fear of recurrence, about her cold spine, and of her sick cells, shedding some light on what the effects of chemotherapy are like for the thousands of people who are diagnosed with breast cancer annually.
Her cancer treatments ended last summer and, although still recovering from chemotherapy, she signed up for school in the fall.
"Trying to hit him was like trying to drink coffee with a fork." - Willie Stargell on Sandy Koufax