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January 8, 2014

It has only been a little more than 3 weeks since we lost Lilly – our incredible, miraculous canine heroine. It feels impossible, like forever, and like yesterday all at the same time. Here are the insights into Lilly’s final days that I thought you’d want to know.

You may have noticed a very brief mention of cancer in Lilly’s obituary. We knew in October that prolonged and monstrous immune suppression to protect Lilly’s brain had led to not just one but TWO kinds of cancer in Lilly’s body – oral sarcoma, nasal carcinoma.

We decided to keep that private. The news was devastating, and we just didn’t have the strength to throw that information out for public consumption and comment. Also, it became increasingly hard to take photos of her where the cancer didn’t show.

We decided early on that we would not put Lilly through extensive cancer diagnostics or treatment (as many as 12-15 radiation treatments, each one under anesthesia). We’d already asked too much of her. I knew that meant our time was short. I didn’t fully grasp how short.

Oral Sarcoma

That swollen spot inside Lilly’s lower lip was BOTH a MRSA infection and a likely spindle cell sarcoma. While kind of sad and icky to see, the oral sarcoma had no real impact on Lilly.

Nasal Carcinoma

That lump on Lilly’s head, between her eyes, is another story. It turned out NOT to be a hematoma (blood pocket / bruise from the blood thinners for the blood clot), as we first thought.

lilly with ball 11-18-13It was likely a nasal carcinoma. Such cancers in dogs often do not metastasize, but they can be incredibly invasive locally. I’m told they grow slowly, but the lump went from seemingly nothing to a killer in less than 2 months.

Nasal cancer is why …

Lilly had nosebleeds, going way back to February 2012. There is a chance it has been in there this whole time, floodgates opened by constant immune suppression.

Lilly developed that crazy allergic reaction the week before she died. That alone is absurd since her immune system shouldn’t have been able to mount an attack, but her body’s will to protect itself proved too strong.

Lilly began having seizures again, 3 days before she died.

I will not burden you with the details of Lilly’s final days that haunt me. I’ll simply say that based on what happened on her last day we believe that the nasal cancer had ruptured and had also broken through the bone between her sinuses and her brain.

Lilly’s Fund

We are working out the details for a memorial fundraising campaign in Lilly’s honor.

We’ve chosen a goal of $3,343, which is the number of days Lilly was in our lives, from her adoption until her death. I will give $693 myself, which is the number of days Lilly survived her illness. That leaves $2,650 for our blog fans to contribute.

The goal is to raise money for a memorial “scholarship” for another canine neurology patient at our specialty hospital – essentially enough to pay for a CT or MRI scan, plus a bit more (maybe part of a hospital stay or surgery).

Once we’re ready to launch the campaign, I’ll post details.


Thank you for your continued interest and compassion. The crushing grief is not easy, but we’re doing the best we can to remember Lilly and to honor her important role in our lives — then, now, and forever.


About the Author Roxanne Hawn

Trained as a traditional journalist and based in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, USA, I'm a full-time freelance writer for magazines, websites, and private clients. My areas of specialty include everything in the lifestyles arena, including health and home, personal finance and other consumer interests, relationships and trends, people and business profiles ... and, of course, all things pet related.

I don't just love dogs. I need them in my life. Seriously.

  1. Oh, Roxanne. Heaven knows I wish I had the magic words that would help ease even just a little bit of your pain, but all I can say is that I’m thinking of you and your family. You are in my thoughts, and if there’s ever anything I can do to help, please say the word.

  2. I lost three of my 4 dogs: Sabina, Tara and Tamber in a matter of 7 months, to desease, age and cancer. I know the feeling. They are in a better place now, waiting for us to meet them.

  3. Oh, Roxanne, my heart aches. The love you and Lilly shared is profound. Thank you for sharing your experiences, both the beautiful ones and the tough ones, so transparently.

  4. Seems like “strength” is the word that applies to both you and Lilly. Tom and Gingko, too, of course. But as the writer and the heroine, you and Lilly are the primary connection we have. I’m sorry that you are haunted by the last days, especially the last day. When the first dog I loved was in his last days, and it was so very brief, I recall and will never forget two things … one was the howl in the middle of the night as I lay on the floor beside him, this from a dog that NEVER vocalized at all. My heart was shredded by that sound. You and Lilly and your family continue in my thoughts. Whatever peace is possible, I wish that for you.

  5. I remember reading somewhere, not sure if it was a poem or prose but it said a dog will go through and face anything as long as we are by their side to be with them and help them through, no matter how hard…even death. I remember as hard as it was seeing my dog go through his illness, it was an honour to be by his side at every turn, it was the very least I could do for the years of friendship, loyalty and total love he had given me…I could see the relief and the peace in his face and body knowing I was there for him no matter what!

    I can’t even imagine the extent of what you went through with Lily as I started following you just in the last few months but I thank you for standing by her and doing what you could to help her…God bless you and give you good memories to help you through the truly difficult times and know that Lily will be waiting when it is your time to go to Heaven. I hang onto this and it gives me peace!

    Love Shelley

  6. You have been on my mind so much over the holidays and beyond. The last two years of Lilly’s illness have been one small loss after another, leading up to the final, devastating loss. I can’t even imagine what you’re feeling, it must be overwhelming. You’re in my thoughts and prayers.

    I hope some day in the future, when the grief has softened a bit, you will consider writing a book about your experience.

  7. That last time must have been so hard for you, and I can imagine how that image of Lilly must haunt you and is impossible to erase. Hugs.

  8. Lilly fought so hard and long, she was lucky to have found you.
    There is a saying that I treasure and it’s “grief is the price we pay for love”.
    Your memorial fund is such a kind thing to do.

  9. I am still haunted by Jasmine’s last days till today. From the little you described, it certainly paints a mighty haunting picture in my head. (((hugs)))

  10. It’s so hard for us to get past all the awful physical details but keep in mind dogs don’t have the same awareness — thank heavens — of things that inspire fear and loathing in us. I know exactly how you feel though. I’m hoping the happy memories will wipe out the other ones, though the sadness… I wonder if that ever goes away entirely. My heart is with you.

  11. This must have been so hard for you to write, let alone live through. I’m glad you are starting to talk about it. Be kind to yourself. You did so much for her.

  12. You’ve had it so rough. I’m so sorry. Someday, those last weeks and days won’t be your primary memory, at least that’s what I hope (and that’s what happened to me).

    Your memorial fund idea is wonderful.

    Take care of yourself.

  13. I still can’t come up with any words to offer more than I am so sorry, Roxanne. You all fought so hard for so long. You are always in my thoughts.

  14. I’ve only ever told two people in my entire life the details of my dog, Biily’s, fight against cardiac hemangiosarcoma. And it took time to talk about death but it was even harder to talk specifics. I hope that time will bring you the kind of peace it has given me. While we miss their presence forever there is a part of them with us and a knowing that one day we will be together again.

  15. You are so incredibly strong. We have learned so much on this journey we have taken with you. We thank you for keeping us updated. As hard as it was to read your last few blog entries, we hope that our presence here comforts you.

  16. My heart just breaks for your family. Please stay strong, now that she’s at rest, and know how much you gave people by sharing the details of her life with you. Rest in Peace, bright star.

  17. I have no words either,, you all fought the good fight,and Lilly is at peace now RIP sweet and brave girl

  18. I am so sorry for your loss. You are an amazing family & Lilly was such a beautiful girl. My thoughts are with you.

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