Kendall was on Sue’s lap as usual, after supper, while Sue and her husband, Gary, watched television. The half-beagle-half-pug rescue dog (in more ways than one) from Paw Animal Shelter, kept sniffing and pushing on Sue’s right shoulder with her nose. Sue, thinking she had some food on her blouse, looked at her right shoulder and felt around. There was no food stain, but she could feel something puffy on her shoulder and upper arm. Kendall, kept sniffing and pushing, like a drug-sniffing dog for the police.
Very well, Sue decided she would have her shoulder checked out. Sure enough, she had cancer of the lymph nodes and possibly one breast.
There is major history of cancer in Sue’s family. Her dad died of colon cancer when she was 14. He wasn’t there to walk her down the aisle or see her children.
Her father was the oldest of eight children, and all of them, with the exception of one, died of cancer—brain, lung, bone, prostate, colon—the whole gamut. A lot of them smoked, so there were two lung cancers. Her grandfather died of colon cancer, and her brother of prostate cancer.
Because of the history of cancer in her family, Sue’s oncologist recommended that she have her DNA tested. Sure enough again, her DNA tested positive for the BRCA1 gene mutation. BR stands for Breast and CA stands for Cancer. The BRCA gene test is a blood test that uses DNA analysis to identify harmful changes (mutations) in either one of the two breast cancer susceptibility genes—BRCA1 and BRCA2. Women who have inherited mutations in these genes are at an increased risk of developing breast and ovarian cancer.
After discussing it with her doctor, husband and Kendall, Sue decided to have a double mastectomy and complete hysterectomy, followed by chemotherapy and radiation. She’s glad she did. (She’s the picture of health.) At 69, Sue can’t say she’s cancer-free yet—she’s having her blood tested every three months—but she’s pretty close. And she has dear Kendall to thank.
Kendall acts as though it’s all part of her job. She’s just appreciative of the nice home she was given. Sue and Gary Walker got Kendall in 2016 when she was 4 years old. No, the Walkers do not rent Kendall out for cancer-sniffing. She is Sue’s dog, and Sue couldn’t get through the day without Kendall.
Sue and Gary, from Denmark, Iowa, want the message to be heard loud and clear. If you have a history of cancer in your family, have your DNA tested, both men and women. Health insurance may or may not cover the cost, depending on circumstances. If it’s not covered it’s around $450—which is worth it. EARLY DETECTION OF CANCER IS THE BEST CURE!
There is even a home saliva test now through a company called 23andMe. This is the first consumer test for three BRCA gene mutations associated with breast, ovarian and prostate cancer that has been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration.
There are no more excuses. Knowledge is power. One out of two men, and one out of three women will develop some form of cancer in their life. You don’t have to wait until you’re showing symptoms or your pet is sniffing at the disease.
Sue feels lucky to have everything fall in place like it did. From the dog, hospital, doctors, family and friends, she’s thankful. Cancer treatment is so much more advanced than what it used to be. In addition to chemotherapy and radiation, there is now stem cell therapy.
Sue says to, “Take charge of your health, before it takes charge of you!”
Have a good story? Call or text Curt Swarm in Mt. Pleasant at 319-217-0526, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org