dog helps detect cancer
Posted: Tuesday, Oct 19, 2004
- 11:46:03 am CDT
By Jen Scherer
Daily News staff writer
Staff photo by Mark
Woman credits puppy with saving her life
The lump was under her collarbone, in an area she wasn't
likely to explore. Scared, she immediately scheduled a doctor's appointment.
When her Shih Tzu began insistently licking and pawing at
her neck, Yvonne Rowlette thought it was strange, but shrugged it off.
Though 18-month-old Peggy Sue, by nature, is not a licker, this went on for
several weeks before the 70-year-old Beloit woman reached back and rubbed her
"That night she got me wet or something, and I felt it," Rowlette said.
It turned out that Rowlette had a rare type of hard to detect cancer. Her lymph
node was removed, and she underwent weeks of chemotherapy and radiation to
battle the disease, which had reached her lung and leg. While diagnosed fourth
stage terminal in April, on Aug. 25 she was declared cancer-free.
Rowlette said as soon as the lymph node was removed, Peggy stopped licking her
Peggy had never behaved quite like this before, and Rowlette doesn't believe she
would have found the lump for a long time without the dog's persistence.
She had been feeling really tired and ill for months, and was having blood
transfusions because of blood loss. She had been to doctors, who were treating
her for walking pneumonia, which they now believe was symptomatic of the cancer.
"They said it had to be there for some time, but it was a fast growing tumor,"
Rowlette has since read about dogs being trained to detect cancer and believes
if Peggy didn't smell the cancer cells, she at least sensed something was wrong.
"This one kept licking my neck, licking my neck. This girl just wouldn't quit,"
Rowlette said, adding, "she licked very hard like she was trying to dig it out."
Peggy was one of five puppies in the first litter of Rowlette's other Shih Tzu,
Ladybug. Rowlette said the precocious pup was the first to do everything and
always the smartest.
"I don't know why, but I kept one," she said looking fondly at Peggy. "I guess I
Throughout the ordeal, Peggy continued to take care of Rowlette. When Rowlette
would stumble, the small dog leaned against her as if to try to hold her
upright. Peggy wouldn't leave her alone, even to visit the restroom.
Both dogs gave her a lot of comfort during the ordeal that almost claimed her
life. Rowlette was, at one point, given five months to live. She even started
giving her belongings away and worrying about who would care for her dogs.
It was a rough few months for the whole family; Rowlette was diagnosed about a
month after her son learned he had cancer. Around that time, her granddaughter
broke her back in a horseback riding incident, her daughter's boyfriend nearly
died in a car crash and her sister was diagnosed with cancer. All are doing
well, or at least better, now.
Rowlette is thankful to be declared cancer free, and is grateful to her Beloit
doctors for their excellent care. She has to have her blood checked every two
weeks, and understands that the cancer may or may not come back.
"If (Peggy) started licking me again real hard I'd go uh oh, I got to go to the
doctor," Rowlette said.
Rowlette retired from General Motors in 1989. Her sons Scott Schumacher and Gary
Schumacher live in Beloit while daughters Cindy Schumacher and Vickie Coleman
live in Brodhead and Florida respectively. She has 14 grandchildren and 13 great