Malandra Burrows was curled up on the sofa with her one-year-old border terrier but the dog just refused to settle down.
Teddy then bashed her head against the former Emmerdale star’s breast, causing agonizing pain in her chest that she could not ignore.
A month later Malandra, 56, was given a devastating cancer diagnosis and she credits her beloved pooch with saving her life.
“She insisted on lying on my chest and was constantly nuzzling me,” the actress explains.
“She just kept looking up at me, staring in a very strange way, then without any warning she thumped me with her head on my left breast so hard it brought tears to my eyes.”
In a great degree of pain, Malandra decided to knock her plans to watch a movie on TV on the head.
“It hurt so much that before I went to bed I checked to see if there was any bruising, which was the moment I felt something that had never been there before,” she says.
“It felt like a swollen gland, which I put down to Teddy’s blow.”
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Malandra says she decided to “give it the weekend to ease” but by Sunday night the swelling remained.
“I contacted my GP on the Monday morning to explain what had happened, and as I’d had no symptoms whatsoever I was certain it would disappear on its own,” she says. “Thankfully my GP disagreed and asked me to see her straight away. This was the beginning of a very new journey indeed.”
A week later in hospital, a consultant told her it was most likely a cyst. However a follow-up scan and ultrasound showed something more sinister.
She was told to come in as soon as possible and was greeted by a Macmillan nurse, who was on hand to help her cope with the news she had stage-three breast cancer.
It has been nothing short of a whirlwind since. An operation to remove the tumor in her left breast followed and she now faces six gruelling months of chemotherapy.
But she constantly thinks back to that Friday night in front of the telly. “If it were not for Teddy I would never have known about this and I honestly believe she saved my life,” she says.
“She’s a truly wonderful little character, we have such a strong bond and I’m so grateful for her. I’ve even forgiven her for chewing up the sun lounger.”
Malandra is not the only person whose dog has detected cancer. Claire Guest co-founded 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 a very deep seated breast cancer that wouldn’t have been detected 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 sized swimming pools”.
The charity has spent 12 years training dogs to detect a range of diseases. As well as cancer, their dogs can detect Parkinson’s, malaria and Covid-19.
Claire added: “Their noses will one day help scientists and medics develop faster, cheaper, non-invasive methods of diagnosis that could impact upon thousands of lives.”
As for Malandra, she says her decision to go public came in the hope of raising awareness of the illness and for women to regularly check themselves.
The actress, who has lost friends to breast cancer, had a routine mammogram canceled due to the pandemic in 2020 and believes it could have spotted the cancer earlier.
“There are thought to be over 9000 women with undiagnosed breast cancer in the UK, and even more shockingly, 1 in 7 will get breast cancer in their lifetime,” she says. “I want to use my experience to encourage everyone to get checked, regularly check yourself, go and see your GP. The sooner it’s caught, the sooner it can be treated.”