Written By: S Holmes | www.stonesdetroit.com
After writing my piece called, “Rescuing Animals…Who rescues who?” I received a message from a woman who wanted to share her journey with me. I was in awe after reading what she had experienced with her dog Effie and I felt compelled to share it with Stones Detroit readers. Her name is Lisa Hulber and she is a foster with Last Day Dog Rescue. Her story has gotten a lot of local attention and is even being shared in a National Geographic book written by Rebecca Ascher-Walsh. She had been invited to speak at a Bark for Life event and she forwarded her speech to me. I think that her words are much more meaningful than anything that I could come up with so I am choosing to share her presentation with you, word for word. It probably wouldn’t hurt to have some tissues handy.
“Please excuse me I am more comfortable reading our story. Good morning, what a beautiful day for the Bark for Life! I want to thank Carol Fletcher for asking me to share our story of survival today. Some people survive divorce and adoption, some people survive tornadoes and earthquakes, some people survive car accidents and Cancer, I have survived them all, ALL OF THEM, and I’ve always asked. What is God’s plan for me? This question has led me to volunteer to foster rescued dogs for Last Day Dog Rescue. Today I want to tell you about another survivor, one without whom I would not have survived cancer. I would like to introduce you to Effie, my dog. Some of you may have read about us in The Times Herald or Voice Newspaper, heard us on WBTI, or seen us on Channel 7 WXYZ, or you may have already preordered on Amazon books the book titled Devoted a book by National Geographic that tells Effie’s story, my amazing dog Effie who alerted me to the stage 3a breast cancer.
Effie is the survivor. I found an ad on Craig’s list, a rescue group called Last Day Dog Rescue needed foster families for the many dogs they try and help. So I made a call and by May 2010 I was fostering momma dogs with puppies. I soon got Effie and 7 puppies. I was told Effie was out on the streets of Ohio, and when captured she was pregnant and severely underweight. She gave birth while residing at a high kill shelter. As their name states Last Day Dog Rescue saved her on her last day, she would have been gassed to death with all of her puppies. Instead because of that phone call, she was brought from Ohio several volunteers transported her up to Michigan and by the time the pups were 10 days old, brought to me. Not very healthy, Effie weighed 47 lbs. Over the next four months I fed them, loved them, took them to the vet, I even began potty training puppies! We had Effie spayed and soon all of her pups were adopted by wonderful forever families. But Effie had many more problems. She dug holes in the yard, she cowered around men, and growled at children, she wouldn’t fetch or play tug of war. She destroyed toys. It was soon obvious that no one wanted to adopt her. Eventually LDDR asked me to adopt her, I discussed this with my husband in hopes we could rehabilitate her. For about a year we nurtured her, loved her and socialized her. She ultimately decided to give us a chance to love her and she returned that love in time.
Last May 2011 Effie jumped up on the couch one evening, a first for her. It took a long time for her to trust due to her past and right after she jumped up she stuck her nose deep into my right breast. I thought I dripped some mustard on my blouse so I gently pushed her away. She came right back the next day and soon it became an obsession she was determined to let me know something was there. This worried my husband who recommended I schedule an appointment with my family Doctor, Dr Raymond to get my yearly tests. I told my Dr. about Effie’s strange obsession and the Dr. took Effie very seriously. Upon examination she could feel a thickening this was not unusual I have been told before not to worry that some women just have thick breast tissue. My Doctor, however believing my dog was on to something, scheduled me to get another mammogram, an ultrasound, and an appointment with a surgeon, all in one day! The mammogram was totally clean again, whew relief, as all my other mammograms have been clear. Then I went across the hall for the ultrasound, they found a large UN calcified tumor. I met with the surgeon, Dr. Clark Paul, for a consultation. I told her what Effie had done to get me there into her office. The surgeon soon scheduled and performed an excisional biopsy. At my follow up apt with the surgeon, I was informed it was cancer an Invasive Lobular Carcinoma, a type of breast cancer that does not calcify so that’s why it never showed in a mammogram. That’s not the end of the story. The surgeon set me up for a double mastectomy, I had a month to wait. During those weeks Effie started a new obsession, she started sniffing my armpit. Burying her nose deep again. As I went into pre-op the surgeon came to talk with me. I told her about Effie’s new obsession. The Dr. asked me to show her the exact spot and she marked it with a marker. After the Mastectomy the surgeons came out to my waiting family, they did not tell them right away that I was fine or that the surgery went well, what they did say was, “Your dog was right on the money!” The only lymph node out of the 27 nodes they took that had cancer, was the exact spot Effie had triggered on. My cancer was staged as 3a. I was blessed and able to recover from surgery with the loving help of my family.
When I returned home Effie instinctually knew I was hurt and she was very gentle with me. She found my cancer twice! Had I not made the decision to rescue Effie, I would not be here today. Since then Effie has not been obsessed with anything but chasing squirrels. Needless to say I am so grateful to Effie, my family, my husband, my family doctor, Dr. Michelle Ramond, my surgeon, Dr. Kimberly Clark – Paul, my Oncologist, Dr. Hanna, Dr. Dalahl and the Radiation Staff, Mercy Hospital surgical staff and nursing staff. So these past 2 years I have undergone surgery, chemotherapy, radiation and reconstruction. I am now taking a pill form of chemo called Tomaxafen. I feel good, I feel blessed, I am deeply devoted to advocating animal rescue. I have lost 3 friends to Cancer and as for that question. What is God’s plan for me? Last March I received a friend request on Facebook that changed my life. It was my biological sister reaching out to me. It was the end of a 51 year search for my family and I am so blessed to have a family of 4 brothers and 2 sisters to add to my family tree. I have a whole new family to catch up with. Thank you for inviting me to share our stories. Effie is here with me today so come say hi, get sniffed, although I won’t be held responsible for a false positive on the butt area. Thank you and Have a wonderful day! “
After learning about Lisa and Effie, it reinforces my love for animal rescues. Again, please consider adopting, fostering or volunteering with a local rescue.