Alena “Ali” Borgen, Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL)

10 Years Old at Diagnosis

Alena BorgenThere’s no sugarcoating it – Ali died on Jan. 24, 2011, after a four-year battle with leukemia.

In Feb. 2007, Ali was 10 years old and in 4th grade. She loved school and basketball. She started having back pain and was told it was a strained muscle. The pain continued; she was told it was psychological. A couple of weeks later, Ali collapsed at home from pain so extreme that it was impossible to walk and almost unbearable to move. X-rays at our local hospital revealed multiple vertebral compression fractures.

The next morning, on March 15, 2007, Mayo’s jet flew through a snowstorm to Grand Forks to pick up Ali and her mom, while her dad & brother drove seven hours to Rochester, MN.

On March 16, 2007, at 3:15 p.m., we were told that Ali had High-Risk Precursor B-Cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL).

For a year, our family spent a lot of time in Rochester at St Mary’s Hospital and the Ronald McDonald House. Ali used a wheelchair and walker and wore a tortoise-shell back brace for 13 months. She endured intense chemotherapy, which caused colitis, infections, several transfusions of platelets and RBCs, and four strokes (May, June, Dec. 2007 and Feb. 2008).

On March 17, 2008, Ali finally started Maintenance, a 1 1/2-year phase of less intense chemo that included daily and weekly oral chemo, oral steroids, monthly IV chemo, and spinal chemo every three months (in Rochester). Ali had physical, occupational, speech, and water therapies. She continued to improve from strokes, neurotoxicity, and compression fractures that caused a four-inch drop in height. Because her leukemia was high-risk and a slow responder to chemo, Ali had cranial radiation in June 2008.

Ali missed the last half of 4th-grade and most of 5th-grade at West Elementary – where staff and students were called Ali’s Angels – and missed half of 6th-grade, the last half of 7th-grade, and all of 8th-grade at Valley Middle School.

After 29 months, Ali received her last chemo ever – or so we thought – on July 13, 2009. She was off treatment for only 10 months when the leukemia returned (May 2010) the same way it originally presented – with vertebral compression fractures – and was again taken by Mayo jet to Rochester, MN. Ali turned 14 on Sept. 5th, had a bone marrow transplant on Sept. 10th, relapsed on Dec. 23rd, went home after being in Rochester for eight months, had a Celebration of a Lifetime (raised $14,000 for childhood cancer research), and died on Jan. 24, 2011.

Our beautiful daughter was killed by a monster, and we vow to keep fighting in memory of Ali and too many other children.

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