Of all the commonly-known symptoms for breast cancer, having your chest butted repeatedly by your own pet sheep surely isn’t listed as one of them. Enter the world of Emma Turner, a 41-year-old archaeologist living in Wiltshire, England whose pet sheep Alfie gave a stiff and uncharacteristic shot to her chest.
Turner was bruised and confused for a few days until noticing the meaning of Alfie’s attack in the center of her chest, exactly where Alfie had aimed.
"Alfie is normally really well behaved but that particular day he went nuts and it took three of us to hold him down," Turner told the Daily Mail. "He head-butted me repeatedly across the chest and I thought there must be something wrong with him. A few days later a terrific bruise came up on my chest and I noticed in the middle of the bruise there was a lump."
An immediate biopsy proved that the lump was a sign of early-stage cancer. Now she’s taking chemotherapy and all treatments to handle the tumor, one doctors and Turner may have gone years not noticing.
"The doctors and nurses said that if Alfie hadn't done what he did, when he did it, I wouldn't have found the lump for a few years, by which time it would have spread."
Turner rescued the sheep after his mother died from giving birth, nursing Alfie through various illnesses for the first 18 months of the sheep’s life. The sheep is a favorite with visitors at the farm where she keeps him.
The archeologist was feeding Alfie medicine when the butting incident came to a head.
While cancer treatments have been tough for her, the sheep has given her a hope to keep her head up.
"It's very hard to describe what it's like having cancer to somebody who has never had it - some people say it is like a battle, but it's certainly something that means you need to keep your head down and be positive."
Turner had been scheduled to undergo a mastectomy on Friday, which she delayed to spend time with the sheep at an opening day for the farm which he lives on.
When asked what she owes to Alfie she said with a firm belief, "Those who say sheep are stupid usually don't know anything about sheep. Alfie is clever - he saved my life."
Image (not Alfie): Marilyn Peddle / via Flickr