We celebrated Lily's tenth birthday this week, and as much as I tried not to, I couldn't help but think that this is most likely to be her last. My sweet girl has been fighting hard since she was diagnosed with lymphoma last month. We have been going to our local vet twice a week, Thursday mornings for a blood test and Fridays for chemo, and aside from being a little grumpy about it all, Lily hasn't really been unwell (with the exception of one day when she was sick in her food bowl).
It's funny how quickly you become an expert in chemotherapy protocols and white blood cell counts. Lily is on the COP protocol, which means she gets given vincristine intravenously every week (which makes her all hopped up and alert), prednisone every other day (a steroid pill) and cyclophosphamide every three weeks (which is a derivative of mustard gas and known as the "horrible pill" in our household since it was the cause of Lily's one poorly day). Unbeknownst to us, giving pills to a cat is a massive pain in the bum. The first time was horrendous - Lily had just returned from a week in the animal hospital and pooped on the bed when we tried to force the pill down her throat. We needed a plan B. A quick Google and a trip to Sainsbury's later and we were armed with every kitty treat on the market. The best, we found, are those peperami-like dental sticks because they are soft and Lily's doesn't chew on them so the impostor pill gets swallowed whole without kitty knowing any better. Or so we thought. The treat trick worked beautifully for a couple of weeks and we felt really clever about it, until Lily sussed us. We've now had to go back to plan A. If you ever find yourself in this situation, don't bother relying on the pretty illustrations on ehow - no cat is ever going to let you shove something down their throat without putting up a fight (and fair enough too!). But we've found that sitting on top of Lily (gently!), holding her neck up and holding her jaw together once we've pried the pill past her fangs is the best (well, only) way.
Coming to terms with the fact that Lily's recent improvement isn't going to be forever has been the hardest thing to deal with, and I struggle with it every day. I don't want to grieve for her before she's gone, but it's hard. Lily's 4cm tumour practically disappeared after one chemo session, but an ultrasound last week showed that it's still there, pea-sized and still determined to beat us. We're going to continue with four more weeks of chemo and then figure out our next move. Thank goodness we had pet insurance - they paid out very quickly and haven't caused us any problems, so I guess every cloud does have a silver lining. We also had to cancel our holiday to Greece, but thankfully our travel insurance paid out too. I was always sceptical of insurance but I guess it does serve a purpose after all!
Both our local vet and the animal hospital have been incredible and I honestly believe that Lily's treatment has been better than what most humans in the same situation receive. The animal hospital is better than any human hospital I've ever been to; Lily has her own person oncologist - Sofia - who is essentially on call to us and our local vet. I'm astonished, and so grateful to them for saving my buddy.
I always thought chemotherapy for a pet was a stupid thing to do, but actually our experience has been mostly positive. Yes, it's a hassle going to the vet twice a week. Yes, it's a struggle to give her pills. But one thing's for sure, Lily has had a good quality of life on chemo and, when faced with the alternative, we really did make the right decision for her.