A woman is crediting her three cats with saving her life by finding her cancer and continually being drawn to its location.
Stephanie Doody, 55, of Tamworth, Staffordshire, UK, says her cats Rennie, Dinky and Jaffy started following her around and sticking by her side in a very noticeable way, along with sitting on her lap and nudging her abdomen, in February 2014, when she had no symptoms or inkling that anything was wrong. Jaffy started placing his head on her stomach as she slept.
By July, Stephanie had lost some weight and she found a small lump on her abdomen. Between the lump and the cats’ behavior, Stephanie suspected something was wrong and headed to the doctor. It turned out that she had a tumor on her appendix from a rare cancer that in most cases remains undiagnosed until it’s too late.
Stephanie, who is recovering from surgery to eradicate the cancer, says of her faithful cats: “They have saved my life.
“I adored them in the first place, but this just made my love for them even stronger.”
Stephanie’s symptomless cancer was not easy to diagnose. Medics at George Elliot Hospital initially believed she had an ovarian cyst, then thought perhaps she had ovarian or bowel cancer. All these were dismissed.
Stephanie’s husband, John Ball, and her stepdaughter Kaity, a dermatologist based in California who works with skin cancer sufferers, joined the cats in providing support and helped to research her condition, which was finally pinpointed in September by staff at Basingstoke and North Hampshire Hospital as pseudomyxoma peritonei, which is classified as either a disease associated with cancer of the appendix or as a cancer of the appendix, depending on the case.
In October Stephanie underwent a complex and invasive 2-hour life-saving surgery that required two teams of surgeons who removed a section of her bowel along with her appendix, spleen, gall bladder and cervix. The surgery also included a hysterectomy.
Stephanie says her cats – along with the surgeons – saved her life: “I absolutely believe the cats knew. The cancer is a molecular change in your body so you give off a different smell that they pick up on and they just try to get your attention.
“For a while my cats had been following me around but that’s normal – they’re cats and that’s what they do.
“But it got more and more intense and for months they stayed with me everywhere I went.
“If wasn’t until the day I got back from the doctors that they disappeared into their normal spots.
“It was as if they were saying, ‘finally, you’ve discovered it’. It was unbelievable.”
“The surgery was horrendous and I was in intensive care for a couple of days on morphine but I would have died without it.
“Even thinking was hard work, I couldn’t talk properly or move without becoming exhausted.
“I was overwhelmed by the goodwill and wishes of not just family, but friends and people from work.
“It was unbelievable, they were seriously concerned and upset, not only that I had cancer but that I had to go through all of that.”
Originally reported in the Tamworth Herald