Cancer isn't something that anyone should have to deal with. It's a scary disease, probably because we all know that it could be lurking unnoticed for so long.
Someone who knows this better than most is Stephanie Herfel. In 2013, she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, but the way that she found out that something was wrong was all thanks to her Siberian husky Sierra.
She had been gifted Sierra two years prior from her son, and they became the best of buds. In 2013, Sierra began to act strangely around Herfel.
"She put her nose on my lower belly and sniffed so intently that I thought I spilled something on my clothes," Herfel revealed. "She did it a second and then a third time. After the third time, Sierra went and hid. I mean hid!"
This strange behavior came after Herfel had started to experience some pain in her abdomen that the doctor in the emergency room classified as an ovarian cyst, sending her away with some pain medication and no follow-up.
Sierra knew it was more than that and communicated it by hiding in Herfel's closet after sniffing at her abdomen. Herfel decided that she should get a second opinion.
"To see her become so afraid was spooky in its own right. So I made an appointment with a gynecologist and in a matter of weeks and some blood work with an ultrasound, on 11-11-13 I was sitting in the gynecology oncologist room in shock that I had cancer," Herfel revealed.
The initial diagnosis was stage 3C ovarian cancer, but after undergoing chemo, a full hysterectomy, and the removal of her spleen, Herfel thought she would be out of the woods.
But twice more, Sierra sniffed and hid. Once in 2015, and again in 2016, and both times Herfel was diagnosed with cancer. In 2015, she was diagnosed with liver cancer, and in 2016, the cancer infected her pelvic area.
It was actually her oncologist David Kushner who revealed that Sierra wasn't just getting lucky. Dogs have an innate ability to sniff out cancer with an accuracy rate of 98%.
“I owe my life to that dog. She’s unequivocally been a godsend to me. She has never been wrong,” Herfel said.
Sierra loves Herfel so much that every time she notices that something is wrong, she immediately starts to be a bit fearful. She gets stressed out at the thought that her owner is sick.
Herfel now travels around the country to share her story and raise awareness, and while she is currently cancer-free, she knows she can trust Sierra to warn her if anything is wrong again.
"I just feel like my 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," Herfel said.