How One Cancer Patient Found Hope in Man’s Best Friend

Sarah and Sadie

Sarah Sanders on how her dog Sadie has helped her through a difficult time

There are few relationships more special than a person and their dog. Dogs love unconditionally, forgive our mistakes and remind us of what’s truly important in life. This could not be more true than with 35-year-old Sarah Sanders and her new dog, Sadie. This year, Sarah, a marketing and public relations professional living in NYC, received devastating news: she was diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer. Sarah has fought her disease bravely and with a wonderful sense of humor, but she still felt like she was missing something that could bring some positivity to her everyday life… and that’s when she met Sadie. Read on to learn about exactly how Sadie helped to remind Sarah that despite everything she’s faced, “I’m still me.” 


They say all dogs go to heaven. For most of us, it’s obvious why.  In a time when we are so uneasy, when any silver lining seems tarnished, dogs — so innately — give us something we could all use right now: unconditional love. 

You might have heard my story. I was diagnosed with triple-negative invasive ductal carcinoma (+ BRCA1) on Feb. 28, 2020. I am 35 years old. I still can’t believe I just wrote that. And, no matter how much love, support and comfort that comes my way, it’s the loneliest journey I’ve ever been on. This is a familiar sentiment amongst cancer patients.

As Covid forced us all into quarantine (especially those immunocompromised), I couldn’t help but think… and overthink. “What if” became two words that plagued me daily. To try and get my head in a better place I researched adoptable dogs in NYC. I would smile, scroll and envision what life would look and feel like with a dog in it. Immediately I knew… it would make me feel whole again.

But, this was March… I wasn’t even going outside (who was?!) except to go to chemo every other week. It wasn’t the right time. 

Months went by. The search for rescue pups continued. It became part of my daily repertoire. But, so classically me, I let a lot of other voices influence my decision making.

“Sarah, how would you manage a dog in your condition?”

“Sarah, you want to walk a dog three to four times per day?”

“Sarah, you’re in no shape to do this.”

“Sarah, you have medical bills. Dogs are expensive.”

I forgot having cancer makes you think you’re incapacitated. When in all actuality, all you’re trying to do is reintroduce some semblance of normalcy to your life. And yet, to satisfy others, I let the idea of adoption go, even if deep down, my heart was breaking.

Come October, radiation treatment was ravaging my body and mind, and being alone in my apartment only made things worse. I went back to what always made me smile… researching dogs to adopt. 

Typing “rescue dogs NYC” into Google this time felt very different. It felt real. 

For hours I researched rescue groups and shelters, scrolled through hundreds of pictures and descriptions and then… there she was. 

Her name at the time was Kanny. She’s a 9-year-old husky/lab mix and was available for adoption at Animal Lighthouse Rescue, an absolutely brilliant rescue organization that saves Satos (stray dogs from Puerto Rico). I knew from the start I wanted a senior dog, and she stole my heart. 

After approval from my oncologist, I started the process and was very honest in my application about my current diagnosis:

“I have active breast cancer and am undergoing treatment, but am thriving and hope to scream from the rooftops that I’m cancer-free come May 2021.”

The very next day, to my surprise, I got a reply that they’d like to interview me by phone. I exploded. It was the first time in eight months I felt genuinely excited and nowhere in my head (or heart) was cancer even a thought. 

A couple interviews /FaceTimes later…she was mine! My heart is full. I renamed her Sadie (my grandmother’s name). She’s the sweetest, gentlest ol’ gal you’d ever meet. She just exudes ENDLESS love, companionship and calm. She loves hugs and has an uncanny ability to smile and wink at you. In my worst of times where stress, treatment side effects or just general cancer anxiety creeps up, she provides comfort that a human honestly just can’t. 

My sweet Sadie girl arguably has saved my life in many ways. She’s reminded me I’m still me, just by simply being “man’s—or in this case, woman’s best friend.” Perhaps we should all try to be the people our dogs think we are. Maybe then we’d all be a bit more loving, kind and gentle to one another. In the end, that’s all that really matters, right?