For many, a dog is just as much a part of the family as anybody else. That’s why it’s difficult when your pet get sick. That’s what happened to one Plankinton Family, but two teenagers turned their sad situation into a big discovery. 

With a pet and a smile, it’s easy to see how much Emma and Noah Heezen care for their dog. That’s why even years later, their other dog Sassy, still holds a place in their heart. 

“We got her when I was like 6 or 7 because I’m the only girl in the family and so it was like she was a companion for me basically,” Emma said.  

Sassy was diagnosed with cancer just a few months after the Heezens lost their grandfather to brain cancer. The family wanted to find a natural way to treat the dog’s cancer, and got some unexpected results. 

“We started feeding her asparagus because we were kind of at a loss. We were just like ‘Well you know whatever works.’ So we gave her that a couple times a day and after about two months she had been cured of her cancer,” Emma said. 

That turnaround led the siblings to do more research. They found a study that was never finished by a veterinarian in Washington involving the plant sweet wormwood. Their dad Jason runs a veterinarian clinic in Mitchell and while he doesn’t prescribe it to canines, he does suggest it to pet owners. 

“About 15 animals who started using it like within their 6 month checkup their cancer had pretty much cleared up and they had a really improved quality of life,” Emma said. 

It was an unexpected result for some curious teenagers. 

“It’s pretty exciting to see this and I’m kind of the pessimist so I wanted to actually test it so that we would have good science behind it,” Noah said. 

The siblings wanted to find out more, so they spent hours researching at a lab at Dakota Wesleyan University, and they were happy with the results. 

The University helped provide the Heezens with the proper cells to the do the research. The teenagers took sweet wormwood, added water and iron to the mixture, and at the highest concentration, there was an 85-95 percent kill rate of the cancerous cells. 

“The second time we had found the right amount of dosage and it showed that 85-95 percent and I was just about, I couldn’t even say anything I was so excited. It’s not everyday you find something that actually works to treat cancer,” Noah said. 

The Heezens presented their results at the South Central South Dakota Science and Engineering Fair. They earned a $12,000 scholarship to DWU, and next month, are heading to an international competition in Los Angeles. 

“We’re pretty nervous about it, but excited. I mean, there’s 1,800 projects there so there’s a lot to compete with but I guess anything can happen,” Emma said.  

Even if they don’t bring home any prize from the competition, if their research can make a difference in someone’s life, all the hours in the lab will be worth it. 

“My main thing is just try and help people. Even if we don’t win anything or this doesn’t go anywhere, if someone like hears about it and can use it to help cure their dog and it gives their dog a couple more years of life and brings them more happiness I think that’s one of the most important things for me,” Emma said. 

Finding ways to give people more time with their furry members of their family. 

The siblings have high hopes for their future as well. Noah hopes to one day become an electrical engineer or potentially a neurologist. Emma is planning on becoming a veterinarian.