Living with a Greyhound with cancer- Our journey

I am starting this blog to help keep my sanity after my beloved Lily was diagnosed with Leukaemia on 13/03/2017. It might just help someone else going through something similar in the future, or maybe you are going through it now.

This our journey.

Lily is a rescue Greyhound from Wimbledon Greyhound Welfare (Hersham Hounds). She turned 10 years old on 24th March 2017. I have had her since 2009 when she joined our pack, making it four. We already had Rex, another rescue Greyhound from WGW and Lucy and Gemma, two naughty Yorkshire Terriers. All 3 are now at the Rainbow Bridge, which makes Lily even more precious.

Over the last year or so, Lily had times when she wasn’t that keen on her food, I put this partly down to losing Rex in August 2015. She always had to finish it when he was around, or the gannet would eat all of hers too given half a chance. Once he had gone (leaving us all heartbroken- thats another story) she didn’t need to eat it all at once. She also had a neck/shoulder problem which meant having X-rays and blood tests which showed her lymphocyte levels were up and down. She had numerous tests for Cushings Disease amongst other things but everything came back negative. One day her lymph nodes were swollen so one was removed for biopsy. Fearing lymphoma we were elated when the results did not indicate this. She appeared well in herself apart chronic vaginitis which was treated with antibiotics and would then go away and had the odd quiet day, so with the tests not revealing anything we got on with our lives, although a small part of me feared there was something wrong.

At the end of February 2017 she was overdue her yearly boosters so I had a titre blood test done at my local vets and asked for a general profile to check her Lymphocyte levels. She also had signs of vaginitis again so she went back on antibiotics. Her blood test showed her lymphocytes were very high again and on the same day I got the results she was off her food and only by hand feeding her was I able to get her to eat anything. I knew then something more was wrong and took her to see another vet which is a 100 mile round trip away but deal with a lot of Greyhounds so I feel more comfortable them seeing her when its something more than trivial.

Lily had ultrasound and X-rays which showed up nothing, was given more antibiotics, anti-inflammatories and pain killers but she was becoming more and more unwell and had virtually stopped eating all together. She was panting a lot, unable to settle and clearly in distress which was breaking my heart. We then had a bone marrow biopsy. I swear waiting for those results seemed to go on forever and I thought we would lose her before we got them back. It was Monday 13th March when we rushed her back to the vets because she was so poorly and I had been up with her all night. When we arrived at the vets they had just got the bone marrow results through. I knew deep down it would be bad news. The lovely vet explained that although it wasn’t a 100% diagnosis, cancer cells had been found and everything pointed to leukaemia. We had 3 choices, let her go, get her referred to a specialist for more tests (by which time I knew she would most likely be dead), or begin Chemotherapy straight away. It could not be cured but we could try and get her in remission and have a good quality of life for as long as possible. Through tears, we opted for the latter and left Lily at the surgery, not convinced we would see her again as she seemed so unwell that it would take a miracle for her to come home again.

2 days later Lily came home. She was very very thin but alive and a different dog to the one we had left there 2 days previously! She was very tired after her ordeal (she is a very nervous soul at the best of times and terrified of the vets) but she soon settled back home and by the following day was eating anything and everything. And so began the gruelling 19 weeks of chemotherapy. As I write this, she has had 4 weekly sessions with her currently on a 1 week break. It has not been an easy ride so far, in fact it’s a rollercoaster ride, so here starts our story.







Monday 8th May 2017

Today I have to write something I have been dreading but knew that it would eventually come. Lily slept with me on the bed last night, she kept waking and frantically licking her  front legs, a sure sign of pain and discomfort. I was awake for much of the night, comforting her, and she would doze off again. She then got up early and nearly fell down the stairs trying to get down them to the back door. I could see she was wobbly on her feet and going to the toilet was difficult for her. She had a look in her eyes that said she was suffering, she couldn’t fight anymore. Justin and I agreed we had to let her go this morning, we knew there was no chance of her getting any better. I took myself upstairs and cried until I had no breath left. She has tried so hard to fight this but could not go on.  While Justin called our vets to see if they could come out this morning she wanted to settle in the garden on her mattress even though it was cold outside. We put a blanket over her and sat with her her. I cuddled and talked to her for 2-3 hours while we waited, the longest, hardest wait of my life. We always knew we wanted her to go at home, not the vets where she was so scared. Every now and then she would get up and tense her stomach, as if she was having terrible stomach pains. Then she would fall into a deep sleep. We took it in turns to talk to her and comfort her.

Eventually the vet arrived with a vet nurse. She is not the vet who has looked after Lily through her treatment but is a local one who Lily has met before. Its hard to write what happened next because it will haunt me for the rest of my days. Lily had been peaceful and resting and me and Justin had her head and front half while the vet and nurse sat and the other end. She said it would be best for Lily to have the injection in her back leg as she was comfortable where she was but Lily began struggling and twice tried to get up before she could be given the injection as they tried to hold her back leg still. I feel like we had to hold her down, although Justin says that Lily just did’t want her back leg held still before the vet gave her the injection, and that it was only when we settled her that the needle was inserted and that she didn’t flinch. It so wasn’t how i wanted it though. My best friend who trusted me completely. I know we did the right thing and I know that it was better for it to happen at home. The way she struggled to get up though before that fatal injection was given will haunt me.

We took Lily to the crematorium ourselves. It’s all surreal really. In the car I was wailing and screaming that she didn’t go the way I had wanted. I felt I had let her down, that she was scared in her final moments. When we arrived she was in the room with us while we gave our instructions regarding her cremation, then were left alone to say our goodbyes. She was still warm. I felt scared she might actually not be dead, although I know deep down she was. I kissed and stroked her, told her how much we loved her and then we left.

Tomorrow we will collect Lily’s ashes and they will sit next to Rex by the fireplace. I hope I will find peace. Right now I am dizzy with thoughts and emotions.

One thing I know is that there is nothing like the unconditional love of a dog, especially a Greyhound. But when you have to say goodbye, it hurts like nothing else. That is the price you have to pay.

For anyone else who goes through something like this, I can only say you will be strong when you need to be, go with your heart and do what is right for your dog. We owe them that.

Run free Lily. 24/03/2007- 08/05/2017. My gorgeous brave girl who will live in my heart forever.

Sunday 7th May 2017

Lily’s appetite has dwindled. This morning she felt sick for a while but now she seems to be settled and quite content but just won’t eat more than a small handful of dry food and a few mouthfuls of tinned tripe, despite cooking her steak and pork medallions. She’s trotting in and out of the garden and shows an interest in food but then just doesn’t want what I’ve offered her, and trust me there’s been plenty of selection.

Her illness hasn’t stopped her hatred of flies and she’s just leapt onto the daybed in the garden to try and catch one.

She’s been on a half dose of her steroid the last few days, I think I’m going to increase it to the full dose tomorrow and give her everything, cerenia for nausea, zispin for appetite, probiotics for her tummy, tramadol for any pain she is in. There is nothing else I can do. The worry is tomorrow I have to go to work and so does Justin so there will be a few hours she has to spend at my mum and dads. I know she will be loved and well looked after there but i just want to spend all my time with her. I wish there was compassionate leave for people with ill dogs. I’ve used up a lot of my annual leave already and there are days I just can’t take off unless an absolute emergency.

I think this has been the hardest few weeks of my life so far. That may seem odd to some people but she really is my family as much as any human. My friends understand that and that’s what matters.  I’ve neglected my parents the last few weeks who rely on me alot, although they are understanding but I’m being torn in two. Justin says that seeing me so stressed and upset is as bad as seeing Lily’s decline so that makes me feel bad too. I’ve been through having to make the heartbreaking decision of euthanasia before but it’s been more of a black/white decision previously. Yesterday I actually felt like I was losing the plot.

Well the sun has finally come out today, the birds are singing and I know Lily will enjoy a walk in the woods later so I’m going to enjoy it with her. Every day since she came out of hospital when she started her chemo and was at deaths door, I have taken a photo of her to put into an album to remind me of the extra time we have had with her. So far we are up to 54 photos. I am grateful for that. In doggy time that makes about a year of extra time we have had with her. She is my little miracle girl and I love her.

Thursday 4th May 2017

There is definitely a decline in Lily but she then perks up in the afternoon. This morning we had a tearful discussion that we will see how Lily goes over the weekend but that Monday might be the day we say goodbye. We don’t want to see her suffering and this morning she looked really sad, didn’t want to go out and wouldn’t eat. It seems surreal discussing when we are going to let her go. That we will actually call the vet to come and kill our dog, that we are playing God and deciding when enough is enough.

I drank 3 glasses of wine this afternoon, it numbs the pain of knowing whats to come. I cancelled my hair appointment for tomorrow, too scared to leave her alone for that long. Who cares what my hair looks like? Then this afternoon, as if Lily knows what we’ve been talking about, she starts eating again. I ask her if she wants to go out and she starts wagging her tail and rubbing around my legs. We all go out together and end up walking about 2 miles, she’s clearly happy and enjoying it. Suddenly it seems Monday won’t be the day. As long as she has these happy times we continue. She even got a couple of toys out when we got back and started playing. As I type this she’s tucking into Pork belly.



Wednesday 3rd May 2017

Lily had us worried yesterday. She was quiet when she got up and didn’t eat anything until about 1pm despite me cooking her pork belly before I left for work. Justin was home with her so kept me updated. She perked up in the afternoon though and by the time I got home at 7pm I was greeted with an excited greyhound with a waggy tail who had eaten over 1/2 kilo of Pork Belly so I cooked her a fillet steak for supper which she scoffed down. Phew…..another day of worry over. She even got up in the night and ate some dog food from her bowl. There is always food down 24/7 incase she feels peckish.

I spoke to her vet about reducing her steroids. He thought that it would be a good idea to try to halve the dose if she is doing well. The higher the dose, the more compromised her immune system is and it also might be contributing to her tiredness, so we are going to halve it from today and see how we go. We can put it up again if need be and should know in a few days if she is ok on the lower dose. I think she might be able to put a bit of weight on too if she’s on a lower dose. Fingers crossed. The weather is awful today so it doesn’t look like we will be able to take her anywhere special today but neither of us are working so will have a lovely day anyway with her.


Sunday 30th April 2017

I haven’t updated for a few days. To be honest I’ve just been exhausted from 5am starts each day for work, sorting out her meals so who ever is looking after her has plenty of tasty morsels to tempt her with and then making sure I have plenty of quality time and nice walks with her when I get home.

She’s had a really good few days. I don’t think she’s put any weight on but she certainly hasn’t lost any. She’s seems happy. We know we made the right decision to stop the chemotherapy. She would not have survived any more chemo because the side effects were just too severe for her, she wouldn’t eat and was just miserable and ill on it after initially seeming to take it well. I would not tell someone else not to go down that route, most dogs have very mild side effects, but she didn’t.

It’s great to see her feeling so much better, although it upsets me to see her so thin and she doesn’t have the energy she used to. She can be lame sometimes. It seems to last for w few minutes when she’s out and then it passes, some days there are no signs at all. I’m giving her a low dose of Tramadol to try and counteract any joint pain she has. I so wish we weren’t in this situation. I’m constantly worried about what lies ahead and how soon it will be. I feel so envious when I see people out with their dogs, full of energy, happy and healthy. I want to shout out to them to appreciate every day with them.

I want to speak to the vet again after the Bank Holiday to see if I should look to reduce her steroids slightly. She’s on a high dose and it doesn’t come without its dangers and side effects. It’s a fine balance.

Here is a photo of Lily yesterday in the Bluebells in my woods. Not long ago I didn’t think she would still be here when they were in full bloom, so its a precious photo of her. I love Spring, but this year it isn’t filled with the hope and anticipation it usually holds for me. It fills me with sadness that it will be the last Spring I get to spend with my best friend.IMG_2667

Wednesday 26th April 2017

Lily hasn’t been quite as bright today but she has eaten quite well (steak and pork belly) The stress each day of not knowing if she will eat is awful. Her appetite tends to improve as the day goes on and once she’s started eating it’s a massive relief. She’s enjoyed 2 nice walks today in-between the rain and hail.  We also visited my mum and dad. I wasn’t sure I was going to take her with me because she was bit quiet this morning but when I got my bag and jacket she started wagging her tail and jumping around me so I knew she wanted to join me! She loves going out in the car.

She’s played and had a quick sprint so she has had a good day. I had to speak to the vet and get a prescription of antibiotics posted to me. She got signs of her vaginitis coming back so I’m worried that she could succumb to infection again. The steroids plus the Leukaemia make her immune system very compromised. She could also pick something up from other dogs when out and about but I have to keep things in perspective. There’s no point wrapping her in cotton wool. She needs to get out and about and enjoy herself. Thats the whole point. Quality not quantity.

Tomorrow is the first day since she was taken ill that Lily won’t be with me, Justin or family. My lovely neighbour who has often looked after her and walked her before she was ill will be looking after her for me until lunchtime. She will then be on her own for a few hours until I get home from work. I’ve been busy cooking steak and kidney and pork belly for her to try and entice her with tomorrow. I’ve got a pet cam as well so I can keep an eye on Lily while she’s on her own. The steroids make her drink a lot so she needs to wee much more often now although she seems to hold it ok for 6-8 hours overnight but during the day she wants to go out every couple of hours.

The weather forecast looks like Spring is back next week and after working this weekend I’m off all but one day next week so I’m praying she will be feeling well still and we can enjoy some trips out together.


Tuesday 25th April 2017

Tonight I feel a weight has (temporarily) been lifted from my shoulders. Lily has had another great day with Justin. I could tell as soon as i walked in that Lily is pretty much her old self today. She’s been running around and just happy. I had told Justin to cook her some liver and steak today. When I got home he said he hadn’t cooked the steak because she ate all the liver. OMG. It was 1/2 kilo of chicken livers. I hadn’t meant for him to give them all to her. The livers were just something extra to give her throughout the day over the next couple of days. I am ecstatic she ate them all but a little concerned what her poor tummy will make of all that. Anyway I cooked her steak for tea and rather than having to feed her little bits at a time by hand or leave them where she is lying she actually just wolfed them down from her bowl. She likes them medium rare!

So tomorrow its my turn to get to spend the day with Lily. Please God let it be another good one.

Monday 24th April 2017

Lily ended up eating quite well by the end of yesterday. She came to bed with me and was panting a lot until about 2.30am which I think is just a side effect of the prednisolone. She doesn’t seem distressed by it but of course I can’t sleep until I know she’s settled. I had to be up about 5.30am and came downstairs. To my surprise Lily jumped up and raced downstairs with me, grabbed a few mouthfuls of food from her bowl then ran outside to do a wee, ran back in, had a dentastick and a few biscuits. I really didn’t want to go to work and leave her and she followed my around with soulful eyes knowing I was leaving her but Justin would be with her all day. I was a bit apprehensive as I had to leave him to cook for her today so he was given full instructions! I was relieved when Justin let me know later that she was the brightest and happiest today that she’s been for weeks but I was disappointed to be missing out on her feeling so well. Unfortunately he had to do the long drive to the vets again to get some more medication as we had only been given enough to last until today, I don’t think anyone thought we would be needing anymore but Lily’s got other ideas. She went with him and was recognised again at the vets by a Facebook friend from the Retired Greyhound Group. She’s a bit of a celebrity now and the support I’m getting from so many people I’ve never met is amazing.

I got a lovely welcome when I got home, she was so excited she grabbed a few bites to eat. She’s not eaten enough though again today and her weight loss is really upsetting to see. So long as she is eating enough though to be happy and enjoy things we will keep going. Tomorrow is another day. I pray it will be another good one for her. She’s exhausted now. How can you not be totally in love with a face like this?

Lilys face

Sunday 22nd April 2017

It’s been an emotional day. Lily wouldn’t eat anything for the first few hours but has ‘grazed’ a bit during the day. It’s becoming more and more difficult to get her to eat and I know the steroids and appetite stimulant are having less and less effect. One minute we are discussing letting her go tomorrow, then she suddenly perks up and grabs a toy or starts wagging her tail rubbing herself around my legs. She still wants to go for walks but is tiring easily. We took her to the coast for about half an hour. She enjoyed the sea air and said hello to a few other dogs. I cooked turkey steaks for her earlier and she’s had a few pieces, but tonight I cooked some pork belly which she’s found more appetising. She’s not eaten anywhere near enough though to sustain her properly.

The hardest decision you will ever make is when your best friend has had enough. We don’t want to leave it so long as she feels awful, but we don’t want to deprive her of a day that she will enjoy. She wants to be with me all the time.

I know we haven’t got long left and it’s breaking my heart.


Saturday 22nd April 2017

A lovely day with Lily today. She’s not really interested in any ‘dog food’ so I have been cooking for her. A bowl of food seems to overwhelm her so you have to give her small amounts at a time, often hand feeding her or putting a few pieces next to where she is lying and she will graze throughout the day. It’s quite exhausting to be honest but such a lovely feeling seeing her eating and enjoying it. She’s eaten a whole steak plus about 300g of chicken livers and other treats. I know its not ideal but anything she will have is fine by me. I’ve got a vitamin paste which I squirt onto her tongue to try and make sure she’s getting what she needs. She had a walk through the bluebells in the woods in my village this morning and spend the afternoon snoozing in the garden and then we drove to Oare Creek which she loves at tea time. We don’t want to wear her out and just let ourselves be led by her. She was very spritely and would have walked much further but we kept it to about half an hour because I don’t want her over doing it. She even had a little run a couple of times. I took my camera to get some decent photo’s of her. We were both choked up driving there today, our favourite times are walking with Lily and each walk we don’t know if it will be the last. I don’t want to waste the good times though being sad. Lily is my little miracle and I pray every night it will continue…..Lily Oare Creek 22.04.17_2689_edited-1.jpg