Dog that helped owner detect cancer now faces inoperable tumor

Published: Nov. 19, 2023 at 12:12 AM PST
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LEWISBURG, W.Va. (WVVA/Gray News) - A West Virginia woman says her dog detected she had skin cancer almost 10 years ago, but now, the tables have turned, leaving the dog in the midst of her own health battle.

Christine Sams says her dog, Lexi, saved her life nine years ago.

“One day, I had come home, and Lexi started following me around and sniffing a freckle on my leg, which was odd. It didn’t look like anything concerning,” Sams told WVVA.

Sams says she thought the mark was nothing to fret over, but Lexi had a different opinion.

“This became a daily occurrence. She would sniff it through my jeans or pajama pants, anything,” she said.

After losing her mother to breast cancer only a few years before, Sams was very proactive in scheduling routine checkups, so after Lexi’s persistence, she had a biopsy done on her leg. The diagnosis came back as Stage 1 melanoma.

“It was very scary,” Sams said. “I had to have another surgery, a wide excision to remove the tissue around the cancer.”

From there, Sams went into remission, where she has stayed for almost the last decade. What she never dreamed, however, was that the next time cancer entered her home, it would be through Lexi.

Sams says Lexi was diagnosed with an inoperable pancreatic tumor in January. She adds that Lexi has good and bad days but that she and her husband have been giving her all the care in the world this last year.

“So far, her medications are doing well, and we’ve got her on different supplements. Most days, you wouldn’t know anything was wrong with her, but, you know, we try to keep her happy and comfortable,” Sams said.

Sams will tell you that Lexi is a special dog, not just because she saved her life, but because of how she continues to impact others. Since she found out she had skin cancer, Sams has been an advocate for melanoma awareness. As the crowned 2017 Miss All State United States and 2021 Miss West Virginia International, she also uses her pageantry platform to share the risks of tanning and sun exposure.

Most importantly, she uses her and Lexi’s story to save lives whenever she can.

“I always say ‘listen to your body.’ If something doesn’t look right, if something doesn’t feel right – you’re the one that knows your body best...and sometimes, you might have to listen to your dog, too,” Sams said.

If you’d like to hear more about Sams’ story, click here.