It’s become a tradition in hospitals across the country to ring a bell on the cancer ward in order to signal the end of successful treatment. But one Nevada patient, Lillian “Lily” Grace Borden, was younger than most. She was only 4 months old when she rang the bell — with a little help from her mom Leann — after treatment for brain cancer. Leann shared a video on her Facebook page on Jan. 25, in which she gets emotional while thanking the hospital staff.
“You guys are all incredible, I’ve never met such amazing people in my whole life,” she says as she stands beside her husband Patrick and their baby girl. “We would’ve lost everything in this journey. You guys are just absolutely incredible people and we’re so thankful for everything you guys have done.”
When Lily was born on Sept. 5, 2019, at 39 weeks gestation, a nurse became concerned about her movements, according to a GoFundMe page set up to raise funds for the Borden family.
“The sonograms were completely normal,” wrote Leann. “No one talks about baby brain cancer. Most people likely don’t even know babies get brain cancer, but our little Lily was born with it. She was not distressed at birth, we held her, she cried, we cried, all was right with the world. But a nurse noticed some small clue that something was wrong. Lily wasn’t moving her limbs quite right. She notified an orthopedic specialist who agreed something wasn’t right.”
Lily had an MRI, which confirmed that she had “an ominous spot on her brain stem.” She was rushed to the NICU, put on a breathing and feeding tube and underwent further tests. Doctors saw that the tumor was getting bigger, developing into a stage 3-4 malignant glioma. It was inoperable and growing aggressively, and Lily’s parents were told there was “little hope.”
“I was devastated,” Leann told CNN. “I think maybe as a woman, as the mom, because you’re the one carrying the kid, you feel a lot of guilt. You’re like, ‘What did I do to cause this?’ And for [the doctors] to look at you and say, ‘It’s just bad luck,’ I think that devastates me even more because you can’t even blame yourself.”
According to the GoFundMe page, the Bordens decided Lily would have a new type of targeted chemotherapy designed for tumors of a particular genetic profile. Lily went through several rounds of treatment over the next few weeks, including general chemotherapy and targeted therapy, during which she acted like a “rockstar,” according to her mom. And it was a success. The tumor shrank and was eventually destroyed altogether. Jan. 25 was the day they “had been praying for” — Lily was declared cancer-free and the family was invited to ring the bell.
Here are some more photos from the big day, posted to the UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Facebook page:
“To everyone who has been through this journey with us, this is our big moment with Lily!” Leann wrote in her own Facebook post. “We thank everyone who has been with us this whole time.”