Human bodies have the incredible ability to indicate when something’s wrong — even before we really know what it is. Sometimes we might feel a weird pang in our side or an unusual flip in our stomach, then a trip to the doctor confirms that we just caught something serious just before it caused major problems.
Kevin Daly was a very athletic guy. He grew up playing sports and remained active even as he got older. However, when he was in his sixties, he noticed a lot of weight accumulating around his stomach, and no matter what he did, he couldn’t shed it. That’s when doctors realized his next move had to be far more extreme. His life depended on it.
Kevin Daly was well aware of the importance of staying active and eating well. As a kid, he was heavily involved in athletics and made sure to keep active and eat healthy foods. Still, he struggled with weight issues.
He lived in Hoboken, New Jersey, where he worked as a financial planner. He was in his sixties, which meant it was becoming harder to lose weight, especially in certain areas of the body, like the belly.
Kevin knew belly fat was stubborn — just ask anyone who’s ever tried to trim down an over-sized beer gut. The fat builds there and tends to stay, but after an incident in 2015, Kevin became suspicious of his stubborn stomach.
In December of that year, Kevin underwent serious heart surgery for a calcified valve. Fortunately, the procedure was done successfully without any complications, but Kevin noticed something strange in the following days.
For some reason, his stomach appeared to have grown in size after the operation. This didn’t make any sense to Kevin. How could heart surgery increase the size of a stomach?
The surgery also caused Kevin’s shoulders and chest to atrophy, which made his protruding stomach even more noticeable. Not only was he concerned about his overall health, but he now felt self-conscious about his appearance.
Naturally, the first thing Kevin did was visit his doctor and discuss his concern. The doctor, however, really didn’t make it seem like it was anything to lose sleep over. Kevin was in his sixties, and with middle-aged men, “it’s just how it is.”
Even though Kevin’s doctor told him it was a fairly normal thing for older men to accumulate fat in their stomachs, he encouraged him to develop a strict exercise regimen to lose the belly weight.
Since Kevin stayed active throughout his life, it wasn’t a problem to hit the gym regularly. For the next two years, he worked hard to burn off excess fat, and when he returned to the doctor in 2017, he was showered with praise.
The doctor was super proud of Kevin. In total, he shed 34 pounds. Not only did he feel healthier, but the doctor told him he had the heart and valves of a 20-year-old. But, something was still off.
Kevin had worked his butt off for the last two years but not a single pound came off of his stomach. He still had a gut, and although his doctor was happy with his progress, he did admit Kevin’s stomach needed a closer look.
So, the doctor scheduled him to return for an abdominal CAT scan shortly after. This would get to the bottom of Kevin’s seemingly irreversible stomach fat. When the day arrived, Kevin had all the necessary tests done, but the results were not what anyone expected.
To Kevin’s horror, it wasn’t fat that accumulated in his stomach. Tests showed he actually had a massive growth that was increasing in size. There was no amount of exercise in the world that would get rid of a tumor that was estimated to be the size of a cat.
Kevin was terrified. “For a second I was vindicated, and then I was completely panicked, because when a doctor says that you have an extremely large mass, you assume that you have a cancerous tumor growing in your stomach.”
At Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, doctors consulted with Kevin. Dr. Julio Teixeira took on the case, and he scheduled Kevin for surgery to remove the mass, which was a type of cancer called liposarcoma that grew in fat cells.
Kevin was nervous when the day of the surgery came, like anyone would be. Invasive procedures always pose a risk, but Dr. Teixeira knew how to handle the mass. The surgery also brought a massive surprise to the doctor.
He knew it was going to be the biggest tumor he ever removed in his career, and he estimated it to be about 12 pounds or so. However, when he took it out, the entire thing weighed 30 pounds! That’s like living with a one-year-old child in your stomach.
Miraculously, the surgery was a success. The doctor did have to remove one of Kevin’s kidneys that was enveloped by the mass over the years, but other than that, Kevin was back to his old self — and 30 pounds lighter!
Kevin’s tumor was a perfect example of why people need to listen to their bodies, and when something doesn’t feel normal, schedule a trip to the doctor. However, if your body won’t divulge hidden anomalies, there might be someone — or something — in your house that can.
Between her stints as a Marine and a mom, Stephanie Herfel was tough as nails. Still, she couldn’t help but feel sad to see her son go overseas with the Air Force. But there was one part of his departure he didn’t tell her about until the last minute.
Stephanie’s son didn’t want her to feel too lonely while he was away, so he arranged a special gift for her. He entered their California home one morning with a smile spreading ear to ear.
Facebook / Stephanie Herfel
He presented her with Sierra, a 9-month-old husky! Stephanie and Sierra became fast friends, and their bond only deepened over the years. Sierra accompanied Stephanie and her husband Jim on a cross-country move to Wisconsin in 2013 without a whimper.
In the back of her mind, Stephanie always knew that Sierra was a very special dog. However, she was about to find out exactly how unique Sierra was — and thank goodness for that…
One afternoon, Stephanie began experiencing some pain and discomfort in her stomach. She figured she’d just eaten something bad and was suffering through some bad food poisoning. When the sensation continued after several days, she visited her doctor.
Stephanie’s doctor brushed off her concerns, saying at worst she was dealing with an ovarian cyst. He sent her home with some pain medication, which would, he thought, set her right as rain.
Once Stephanie returned from the doctor, Sierra perked up. That part wasn’t unusual. At the same time, though, the husky appeared to be more energized than most days. What was up with Sierra?
Sierra joined Stephanie on the couch and immediately thrust her nose into Stephanie’s abdomen. Taken aback, she tried to slide away from the dog. Sierra refused to give up, however, and kept sniffing.
In all her years with Sierra, Stephanie had never seen the husky act like this before. Maybe she’d spilled something on her clothes and hadn’t noticed? Before she had a chance to check, Sierra bolted from the room.
Completely baffled, Stephanie followed the dog’s trail through the house. She found her huddled into a ball in the back of a closet. Clearly, Sierra was trying to express that something was wrong, but what could it be?
YouTube / Lunatic the Husky and April
By this point, Stephanie trusted her dog more than anyone else on Earth. She couldn’t help but think back to her abdominal issues. Perhaps, through some miracle, Sierra knew something that nobody else did.
So Stephanie scheduled another doctor’s visit, and there, Stephanie’s worst fears were realized: tests showed that she had ovarian cancer, which reached a pretty advanced stage! They would have to act fast to save Stephanie’s life.
In addition to chemotherapy, Stephanie underwent a hysterectomy and a spleen removal surgery in 2014. These procedures put a lot of stress on the Herfel family, but at least Stephanie had her trusty dog at her side during her recovery.
To no one’s surprise, Stephanie bounced back! The next year passed without much to write home about, which was fine by her. Stephanie was ready to move onto the next chapter of her life…until Sierra began acting strangely once again.
Just like on the day of Stephanie’s botched doctor visit, Sierra intently smelled her owner’s body and sprinted away. Stephanie ran to the doctor, and sure enough, her cancer had returned!
And so it was Stephanie went through another round of treatment. Doctors once again gave her the all clear. A year later, though, yet again, Sierra went wild and sniffed Stephanie’s abdomen!
For a third time, Sierra correctly diagnosed a tumor inside Stephanie. Treatment. Release. Recovery. Rinse and repeat. Surely, she must’ve thought, this would be the last diagnosis.
Well, as of 2018, she’s been cancer-free ever since! Leaving that dingy hospital bed behind, Stephanie wanted to return to her life and help others suffering from disease. But she couldn’t help but wonder: how did Sierra know?
Doctor David Kushner, Stephanie’s primary oncologist, had a theory. He explained that certain dog breeds can detect chemical traces given off by tumors with an accuracy of up to 98 percent.
Stephanie and Jim were lucky enough to own a canine with this special gift. They decided not to squander their good fortune. They went public about their amazing story, hoping it could help other people who went undiagnosed.
Stephanie also got involved with the Wisconsin Ovarian Cancer Alliance, where she eventually rose to a seat on the board. Sierra is a pretty big local celebrity to everyone in the organization too.
Ultimately, Stephanie believes her story “can let people think about their animals and think, ‘Wow, my animal did this when I got diagnosed.’ Just to give the animals credit that they are pretty smart.”