Miranda Leslau, 44, believes that she owes her life to her Labrador-Pointer mix, JJ.
44-year-old Miranda, who lives half her time in London and half in Spain, began feeling unwell in early 2013.
“I had a recurrent sore throat, pharyngitis, tonsillitis and sinusitis. I was back and forth to the doctors. I’d always been really fit,” she said.
“Suddenly I could barely go a couple of weeks without an infection, my voice became hoarse and I had trouble breathing when exercising.
“Doctors initially diagnosed things like a cold or a sore throat. I then began getting pains in my legs. It was an awful burning feeling in both legs that went on throughout the night.”
It was then that her four-year-old rescue dog JJ began acting strangely.
“JJ would lie on my legs all night long. He also started licking my neck all the time. He always knows when I have a cut or a bruise, going straight for it. So I knew something was wrong,” she explained.
Miranda then pushed her doctor for more tests.
“It was completely by chance that they discovered a lump in my neck. Tests then revealed that it was thyroid cancer. JJ had been trying to tell me where the problem was.”
Miranda was diagnosed with cancer in mid-January. By the end of January she’d had her thyroid removed, and damage caused by the procedure meant she also lost all use of her right vocal cord and most of her left.
She was also left with only 40% efficiency of her airway – meaning every breath is a struggle.
“As I recovered, JJ and my other dog Pucci would lie with me for hours,” she said.
“JJ would even bark in the evenings if I stayed up late. He’d bark and bark until I finally gave in and went to bed.”
Single Miranda says she couldn’t have coped without her dogs during this difficult time. She now faces a hysterectomy due to related issues and further radio iodine therapy to ensure the cancer is kept at bay.
Despite the uncertainty, Miranda remains upbeat.
“Cancer can happen to absolutely anyone. I’m just grateful that I had JJ looking out for me,” she said.