The dog with nine lives: how brave Jem battled breast cancer
It’s normally cats that are associated with having nine lives – but this little Pomeranian is putting that theory to the test.
Trouble seems to follow 10-year-old Jem around – and to top it all off, the furry little critter has just beaten BREAST CANCER.
Jem’s devoted owner Philip Strafford, from Sheffield, said: “I was just shocked. I knew dogs could get cancer, but I certainly didn’t think they could get breast cancer.
“We were just playing one day – she loves to lie on her back and have her belly tickled – when I found this huge lump the size of a golf ball.
“It was really deep in the skin, and I just thought ‘this is not right’. I knew I had to get her to the vet straight away.
“After they examined her they found another cluster of lumps down near her breast, and they told me it could be breast cancer and they needed to operate straight away.”
After an agonizing four hour surgery, the lumps got sent off for further tests while Philip endured further waiting to find out if his beloved dog would pull through.
He said: “It was just agonizing, I spent two weeks thinking my dog might die.
“It was horrible for her to have to go through that trauma, and it was just awful for me because I just kept thinking, ‘at what point do I get her put down’ – I didn’t want to see her suffering.”
It turned out the big lump Philip initially discovered was benign, but the smaller cluster of lumps found by vets in her breast were cancerous.
Thankfully it was only low-grade cancer, which meant little Jem didn’t need to go through any gruelling chemo or radiotherapy.
The vets also managed to spay Jem while removing the lumps, so she shouldn’t suffer any relapses.
Philip, a media consultant, said: “The vet is really hopeful we got it all, and before it had time to spread to any of her other organs. He can’t promise the cancer won’t recur, so I’m just focused now on really enjoying every moment I have with her.
“She was a real trooper and back to her normal self in three days, but still very sore and she has a big scar.
“She’s an older dog but she’s very spritely, she’s always running around and loves her walks.”
Breast cancer can occur in female dogs that haven’t been spayed, as the oestrogen released during their cycle can cause a chemical imbalance.
Dog-lover Philip, 37, fell in love with Jem when he first bought her, aged seven – but because she wasn’t a puppy he didn’t think to get her spayed.
He said: “I didn’t want to put her through the operation – but I’ve since found out that breast cancer is a huge risk in female dogs that haven’t been spayed.
“Of course if I’d known then what I do now, I would have done it immediately.”
Philip urged all dog owners to get their female puppies spayed before their first cycle to stop them going through the trauma that Jem went through.
He said: “Check your dog for lumps, because if I hadn’t found Jem’s and whisked her into the vets straight away she would have died.
“I honestly think she’s got nine lives – she’s a real survivor.”
It’s not the first time accident-prone Jem has caused poor owner Philip to worry – she once fell from the mezzanine in his apartment and sprained her leg as she tried to escape from the postman.
Last year, Philip even broke his leg in two places as he dived into the River Don to save her.
He said: “We were in a beer garden at a pub near the river – she sniffed something in the river and launched herself off a 15ft wall into the water.
“I was in a blind panic but parental instinct kicked in and I just jumped in after her.”
Although the murky water looked deep, it was actually only ankle height and as Philip came crashing down into the shallow water he knew he had broken his leg – because he could see his bone sticking out of it.
He said: “The pain was unbearable, but I was still more concerned about my dog.
“She was trapped underneath some rocks and she was really struggling, so I just grabbed her and we sat in the water before someone put down a ladder and pulled her back up.
“They weren’t able to pull me up, so I had to drag myself with one hand up the ladder as my leg dangled – it was excruciating.”
Jem knew something was wrong, and never left Philip’s side as the duo recovered from their ordeal – proving dogs really are man’s best friend.
Philip spent three months in a cast and even now, a year later, he still cannot bend his foot properly.
He said: “I’d do it all over again to save Jem. She’s a part of my family, and I’m very attached to her.
“I’m so happy to have my little friend back with me now.”