Longtime CSU Animal Cancer Center Patient Battles Cancer for the Fourth Time

If there was ever a dog with the heart of a lover and the determination of a fighter, it’s Lilly Belle. Lilly is on her fourth cancer battle, but you’d never know it by the smile on her face or the way her whole body wiggles when she wags her tail. 

“She’s a miracle. I don’t know how else to explain it. I cannot imagine going through so much, and still being so loving and happy,” Lilly’s owner, Matti McCleery said. “I just love her so much and I will do whatever it takes to give her the quality of life she deserves.”

After losing her first pit bull, Matti knew she wanted another. Matti saw Lilly’s picture on a rescue’s Facebook page; she was up for adoption in Roswell, New Mexico. Matti couldn’t say no. “I saw her sweet face and knew she belonged in my home,” she said. 

Unfortunately, Lilly was in rough shape when Matti arrived at the rescue. “She was really underweight and had been bred several times. Her ears were cropped way too short, they were practically gone, and she wasn’t fully potty trained. You could just tell that she wasn’t very well cared for,” Matti said. “It only took one look at her to know my initial love for her was spot on.”

Matti brought Lilly home and she fit right in with the other two dogs in the house. “She’s such a special dog, she loves everyone and everyone loves her. I can hardly remember what it was like before I had her,” Matti said.

Lilly got in many good years in her new home before she was diagnosed with a suspected brain tumor in 2018 and underwent three rounds of stereotactic radiation therapy (“SRT”) at the Flint Animal Cancer Center. “She responded amazingly well,” Matti said. “Four years later, she had nothing, no signs of regrowth. CSU has never seen a dog still living from that study.”

After her brain tumor, Lilly went back to living and loving just as she always has. She lives for long walks, car rides, playing with her dog siblings, and cuddling on the couch. 

Lilly was also diagnosed with a heart base tumor in 2018, however, there were no issues until 2020, when the tumor started hemorrhaging. She underwent another three rounds of SRT to rid her body of the disease. True to her form, she rocked that treatment and went back to thriving. 

In the summer of 2022, Lilly started having seizures again. The brain tumor had returned. She went through yet another three rounds of SRT to eradicate the mass. The night before starting therapy, Matti was petting Lilly and noticed a lump on her hip. She was diagnosed with mass cell cancer. Lilly underwent surgery, following the second day of radiation, to remove the tumor, followed by a chemotherapy regimen. 

If all that weren’t enough, Lilly was then diagnosed with bladder cancer in February 2023. She underwent palliative radiation to reduce the size of the mass and is currently receiving follow-up chemotherapy. “I will keep treating her as long as she continues to have the best quality of life,” Matti said. “She is one of the most loving, special dogs I’ve ever known. This is my way of giving back to her because she’s given so much to me.”

Along the way, Lilly also had a few other serious health scares that could have potentially ended her life but for the quick action of Matti and the emergency vets who treated her.

In her eleven short years, Lilly had battled four forms of cancer, all with a smile on her face. She rushes into the clinic and is so happy to greet everyone. You would never know that she has been through so much. 

“I feel so fortunate that I live so close to Colorado State University,” Matti said. “I really like the team approach at the Cancer Center and I’m always so thankful for their level of care and compassion. Lilly is still here because of them.”

It’s very rare that we see a dog with four different types of cancer, and live to fight them all. Lilly is a unique patient and she has duly earned the title of Lilly Belle the Miracle Dog. 

“Lilly Belle is a really special dog,” said Dr. Martin, one of Lilly Belle’s veterinarians at the FACC, “We have never seen a dog go through so many different radiation protocols for various tumors and continue to do so well. She handled all of her treatment beautifully and has always been the sweetest girl. Each time we hoped that was the end of it, but Lilly has been dealt a lot of cancer in her life. She’s been able to beat them all thus far and it’s quite fascinating to see.”

Given the way that Lilly has handled all that she’s been dealt with, we know that she will continue to put up a good fight. 

“I’m just grateful for the extra time I’ve gotten with Lilly Belle. She’s a remarkable dog and I wouldn’t have had so many extra years if it wasn’t for the care she’s gotten at CSU.”