A woman who saved a three-legged rescue dog says the pooch ‘saved her’ too – after it alerted her to a lump that turned out to be aggressive breast cancer.
Karen Ethier, 55, was diagnosed with stage three triple negative breast cancer after her rescue hound, Louie, kept ‘headbutting and nuzzling’ her chest.
The animal lover took herself to the GP where she received the shock diagnosis in October 2020 – undergoing intense chemotherapy, radiotherapy, and surgery.
Karen fell in love with Louie – a mastiff and Staffordshire bull terrier cross – when she spotted him in the Bath Cats and Dogs Home, Somerset, in 2014 – after he had to have his leg amputated from neglect.
The loving pup was by Karen’s side throughout the gruelling treatment – which caused hair loss and painful side effects like blistering skin and nerve damage.
She finally finished treatment in June 2021 and is currently celebrating being in remission – thanks to loyal Louie.
Karen, a shop assistant at Pet’s at Home, from Cirencester, Gloucestershire, said: “He’s the most amazing dog.
“When he came into the rescue, he was emaciated and covered in bruises.
“I knew I wanted to save him, and he literally saved my life in return. We saved each other.
“It was tough treatment to go through, but he was by my side the whole time.
“I’m so lucky to have such a clever pup.”
Karen took Louie home in 2014, after rescuing him from the Bath Cats and Dogs Home, where she was working as the Animal Welfare Manager.
The 10-year-old pup was picked up of the street and found with his leg ‘hanging off’ – which he later had amputated.
Karen lives at home with Louie and her other dogs – Cloey, 15, and Rocco, six, both Staffordshire Bull Terriers, bulldog Pee Wee, eight, and five-year-old Ryna the Rottweiler.
She said: “When he was brought in, he was so unwell.
“He went straight to the vet for surgery – they couldn’t save his leg.
“The vet said she had never seen so many breaks in one leg.
“It was heart-breaking to see him in that way.
“He was so sweet, and I fell in love with him the moment I saw him.”
In October 2020, Karen was sitting in the kitchen with Louie and her friend, Helen Jones.
The loyal pooch kept ‘headbutting and nuzzling’ Karen’s chest on the same spot.
Karen’s friend suggested she examine herself in case Louie was ‘sensing’ something there.
Later that day, Karen checked her left breast in the shower was shocked to find a lump.
Karen said: “He kept nudging my boob, I didn’t know what he was doing.
“My friend said: ‘Have you checked yourself recently?’
“I couldn’t believe it when I found a lump – Louie was trying to warn me the whole time.”
Concerned Karen went to the GP and was sent for a mammogram to get things checked out.
She was then sent for a biopsy and doctors broke the news that she had stage three triple negative breast cancer in October 2020.
It had already spread to the lymph in her armpit and doctors had to act fast.
She said: “It was really aggressive, and I needed treatment right away.
“They said the lump was too big for surgery, so I needed chemo first to reduce it.
“My mum, Sarah Ann, died of breast cancer 55 – so it really hit home for me.
“I just stayed hopeful and took each day at a time.”
Karen underwent six months of chemotherapy followed by surgery to remove the lump and lymph nodes in her left arm.
She finished with three gruelling weeks of radiotherapy to eradicate any remaining cancer cells.
During that time, Karen suffered severe side effects include nerve damage in her feet, blistering skin and hair loss.
“It was really scary, but I was lucky to have some great support around me,” she added.
“Louie is incredibly loyal and he knew when I was feeling down or sick from treatment.
“He was by my side the entire time.”
Karen went for her last radiotherapy session and finished treatment in June 2021.
She is now celebrating being in remission thanks to her pet pooch.
She said: “I had a great response to treatment.
“I think it helps in was caught in time and that’s all thanks to Louie.
“I am so thankful to have him my life – he’s the best dog.”