When Amanda Evans-Nash’s dog Jimmy started jumping up and pawing at her chest, she pushed him away.
But when she brushed her hand over the spot he had been sniffing at, she left a lump.
She’d never noticed it before – but when she got it checked out, she was diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer.
Amanda, 50, of Prestwich, Greater Manchester, said: ‘My cancer was very sizeable, aggressive and already spreading.
‘Who knows what the outcome of my story would’ve been if it wasn’t for Jimmy and his persistent sniffing that morning?
‘Now, all I want to do is raise awareness. A lot of people don’t even realise that there’s more than one type of breast cancer.
‘Breast cancer charities are already perceived as being oversubscribed to, but there’s still such a long way to go with research – particularly with the form of the disease I had.’
Earlier this year, US firm BioScentDx, released a study which showed that dogs – known to have smell receptors 10,000 times more accurate than humans – could sniff out blood samples from people with cancer with almost 97 per cent accuracy.
Back in June 2017, Amanda she was lying in bed with her left arm raised above her head and Jimmy jumped up beside her, before persistently sniffing around her breast and armpit area.
She said: ‘He just wouldn’t leave me alone. It was really tickling me, so I reached over with my right hand to gently push him away – and when I did, I felt a lump under my left nipple.’
To her horror, when she examined herself in the mirror, the lump was clearly visible.
The next morning saw her GP, who told her it could simply be a cyst, but referred her to Ninewells Hospital in Dundee, Scotland, near where she was living at the time.
Told it would be around two weeks before she could be seen, she went into work and told her boss, who kindly helped her to call local private hospitals, before landing an appointment that day at 1pm at the BMI Ross Hall Hospital in Glasgow.
‘By 6pm I had been diagnosed with breast cancer,’ she said.
‘My husband Graham had been waiting for me in a different room, but when I got the diagnosis. I felt numb.
‘I could barely look at him for fear of breaking down. When I came back into the room, he gave me this look as if to say, “So? Any news?”
‘All I could do was shake my head.’
She was referred back to Ninewells, where a biopsy confirmed she had triple-negative invasive ductal carcinoma breast cancer, an uncommon form of the disease.
Her main tumour was the lime-sized growth she had originally felt, but another smaller one was also found at the top of her breast and the cancer had spread to her lymph nodes.
‘After my diagnosis, I cried solidly for about two days, but I have always tried to see the positive, and use humour to get through,’ she continued.
‘And eventually, I realised that sinking into my pyjamas and watching Jeremy Kyle all day wasn’t going to get me better.
‘So, I thought to myself, “Right, enough crying. Let’s beat the b****r.”‘
Amanda has 18 weeks of chemotherapy, which ended in November 2017, followed by surgery in January 2018.
As the treatment had shrunk her tumour, she did not need a mastectomy, instead having a wide local excision, where just the lump and some healthy tissue around it was cut away.
Doctors also removed 29 lymph nodes and sent them away to be biopsied, to find out if the cancer had spread any further.
And as she waited for the results, she had six weeks of radiotherapy, which finished in April 2018.
Thankfully, Amanda was given the all clear, after results showed her lymph nodes were cancer-free.
‘I still have some pain in my breast, because of all the scar tissue, but apart from that and some aching in my joints, which I’m told can be a side-effect of chemo, I feel amazing,’ she said.
In May, as a way of repaying the care she received and to raise money and awareness, Amanda and some friends took part in Walk the Walk’s annual MoonWalk, which sees thousands of men and women take to the streets and walk 26 miles through the night in specially decorated bras.
‘We called our team The Pinky Promises because during treatment, my two little cousins made me pinky promise to be brave, to do what the doctors said and not to cry,’ she added.
Feeling healthy once more, Amanda has nothing but praise for the pooch who saved her life.
‘It still astonishes me how I could have missed the tumour, but Jimmy found it,’ she said. ‘He’s ten years old now, and we got him from a greyhound rescue centre we used to volunteer at. He was always my favourite, so I was delighted to be able to bring him home.
‘Now, I want to get people talking. Far too often, people will say they had no idea there were so many types of breast cancer.
‘Triple negative, especially, which is what I had, has a long way to go as far as research is concerned. It is more difficult to treat, as you can’t use hormone treatments, and it only makes up around 15 per cent of breast cancer cases, according to Cancer Research UK, so it is relatively rare.
‘But the more people talk, the more they will survive.’
The MoonWalk London 2020 takes place on Saturday 16 May.
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