On November 10, 2014, Cory and Kendra Daufeldt heard a sentence that no parent ever wants to hear. Their young son Hayden was diagnosed with pineoblastoma, which is defined as “a fast-growing brain tumor in the pineal gland that originates in neuroepithelial cells.”
The then 22-month-old would have to undergo several surgeries and treatments over the next couple of years.
The Daufeldt family has been working hard over the past two years. Kendra explains, “It is very hard, more difficult that people realize, to be able to support the family, and be there to support Hayden.”
Shortly after the initial diagnosis, a friend of the family mentioned the possibility of becoming involved with the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Make-A-Wish offers vacations and experiences to families with children who have life-threatening diseases.
At that time, Hayden was too young for the program. Time passed and Hayden began to progress, and the family continued to focus on monitoring his health, as well as the day-to-day issues at home.
Then Hayden became old enough for the program, and healthy enough to travel. The family planned a trip to Disney to take place in December.
On November 30, 2016, a mass was found behind one Hayden’s eyes. Another surgery would be needed to remove the mass.
The family considered postponing the trip, though doctors assured the parents that Hayden would be safe to travel. The trip remained as scheduled, and the family was able to spend a week at Disney World. “Hayden loves to watch Mickey Mouse, but his favorite characters to meet were Pluto and Goofy. He loved them. We also got to play some miniature golf, and [Hayden] still talks about it. I think that was his favorite part of the trip,” Kendra says.
One factor that made the trip even better for the family was the ability to take a close family friend with them. Kristin was first introduced to the family during one of Hayden’s first stays at the University of Iowa. Kristin was participating in the Dance Marathon fundraiser.
Initially, Hayden was shy and nervous around the U of I student. Kendra explains, “After meeting her in the hospital, we didn’t think much of it. Then we ran into her at Scheel’s in Iowa City.” Kristin provided the family with her email and phone number and requested updates on Hayden’s progress.
A friendship began to form. The family learned that the Kristin had lost a sister to cancer at a very young age. Kendra says, “She is family now. We don’t know how we would have made it without her. We joke that she is Hayden’s girlfriend, he loves her so much.”
Just days before Christmas, Hayden went through surgery to remove the mass behind his eye. The surgery was a success, and the medical staff were able to remove the complete mass, though tests still need to be conducted to determine what it was made of.
Doctors will continue to monitor Hayden to ensure that he continues to progress and improve. Even in the “healthy” times, Kendra says the stress does not really leave. “We always have a bag packed. We are always ready to go to the University. Even a small fever can be very serious for him, and we are always aware of that.”
Kendra says they could not have made it the past few years without the support of their families and their employers. “They are both great, and very understanding when we have to leave at a moment’s notice.”
The Daufeldts received support from the community through several benefits when the diagnosis was first delivered. As care continues, the Voice of Muscatine will continue to provide coverage for any upcoming events.