Former Emmerdale actress Malandra Burrows has been diagnosed with devastating cancer and she credits her beloved dog for saving her life. She says he insisted on lying on her chest and snuggled her up
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Malandra Burrows was curled up on the couch with her one-year-old border terrier but the dog just refused to settle down.
Teddy then banged her head against the former Emmerdale star’s chest, causing excruciating chest pain that she couldn’t ignore.
A month later Malandra, 56, was diagnosed with devastating cancer and she credits her beloved dog for saving her life.
“She insisted on lying on my chest and constantly stroking my nose,” the actress explains.
“She kept looking at me, staring at me in a very strange way, and then without any warning she hit me with her head on my left breast so hard I had tears in my eyes.”
In a great degree of pain, Malandra decided to scrap her plan to watch a movie on television.
“It hurt so much that before going to bed I checked for any bruises, that’s when I felt something that had never been there before” , she says.
“It was like a swollen gland, which I put down to Teddy’s stroke.”
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Malandra says she decided to “give him the weekend to calm down”, but Sunday night the swelling remained.
“I contacted my GP on Monday morning to explain what had happened, and as I had had no symptoms I was sure it would go away on its own,” she says. “Fortunately, my GP disagreed and asked me to see her straight away. It was indeed the start of a whole new journey.
A week later, at the hospital, a consultant told her that it was most likely a cyst. However, a follow-up scan and ultrasound showed something more sinister.
She was told to come as soon as possible and was met by a Macmillan nurse, who was on hand to help her cope with the news that she had stage three breast cancer.
It’s been nothing short of a whirlwind ever since. An operation to remove the tumor from her left breast followed and she now faces a grueling six months of chemotherapy.
But she constantly thinks back to that Friday night in front of the TV. “If it hadn’t been for Teddy, I never would have known this and I sincerely believe she saved my life,” she says.
“He’s a really wonderful little character, we have such a strong bond and I’m so grateful to him for that. I even forgave him for chewing up the deck chair.
Malandra isn’t the only person whose dog has detected cancer. Claire Guest co-founded the charity Medical Detection Dogs after her Labrador Daisy alerted her to her breast cancer by refusing to get out of the car and repeatedly nudging her chest.
She says: “I had very deep breast cancer that would have gone undetected for years if she hadn’t warned me, and my prognosis would have been very different.
She said dogs have an “incredible sense of smell…think a teaspoon of sugar in two Olympic swimming pools.”
The charity has spent 12 years training dogs to detect a range of illnesses. In addition to cancer, their dogs can detect Parkinson’s disease, malaria and Covid-19.
Claire added: “Their noses will one day help scientists and doctors develop faster, cheaper and non-invasive diagnostic methods that could impact thousands of lives.”
As for Malandra, she says her decision to go public came in the hopes of raising awareness about the disease and for women to check themselves regularly.
The actress, who has lost friends to breast cancer, had a routine mammogram canceled due to the pandemic in 2020 and thinks she might have spotted the cancer earlier.
“There are thought to be over 9,000 women with undiagnosed breast cancer in the UK, and even more shockingly, 1 in 7 will have breast cancer in their lifetime,” she says. “I want to use my experience to encourage everyone to get checked, to check themselves regularly, to go and see their GP. The sooner it is caught, the sooner it can be treated.