As Jon and Nikki Decker like to say, their son Kyden has been one of the most amazing gifts they’ve ever received. Born on Christmas Eve, December 24, 2018, Kyden’s four older siblings couldn’t wait to meet him on Christmas Day. Unfortunately, within a month of him coming home, Kyden began to develop eye infections, cold symptoms, and was soon diagnosed with neutropenia. Months later, Kyden had his first appointment with the oncology/hematology department at University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital in April of 2019. Their doctor recommended that they monitor Kyden’s neutrophil level and schedule follow up appointments with her every 3 months. At the time, his parents were told his test results did not indicate any signs of cancer. However, in late May, Jon and Nikki noticed that Kyden seemed to be falling more, often got nose bleeds, and had bruises in places that were abnormal for a toddler and seemed to last longer than usual. On June 7th they took Kyden in for his regular lab work and that’s the day when everything changed. The phone rang, and their pediatrician let them know Kyden’s blood work looked abnormal and it could be signs of leukemia.
Kyden was immediately brought to Iowa City where he was admitted to the hospital, and they had a room waiting for him on level 11. For the Decker’s, it all seemed so unreal that their 17-month-old son could have cancer. Soon after, the medical team confirmed that Kyden had acute myeloid leukemia (AML). Fortunately, they were told that the cancer was caught very early and their physician felt confident that Kyden would respond well to the treatment. Kyden received his first dose of chemotherapy that night and the Decker’s were introduced to the world of cancer. They learned the names of chemo drugs, acronyms for medical terminology, and just how isolating a cancer diagnosis is. Their dreams for Kyden immediately changed. They were no longer thinking about his first day of school, prom, or graduation. They were now dreaming of clear scans, higher neutrophil counts, and the day he would be able to walk out of the hospital to come home.
Since then, Kyden has had five rounds of inpatient chemotherapy treatment. Each stay has averaged 24 days, with about a week at home in between. During their time in the hospital, visitors weren’t allowed due to COVID, the play rooms were closed, and families weren’t allowed to gather together in the family lounge. Kyden’s longest stay occurred during his last visit, 31 days. Needless to say, this was a very difficult time for the Decker Family. Kyden officially completed his last dose of chemo on November 4, 2020, and discharged for the last time on November 27, 2020.
Today, Kyden is in remission, but has quarterly appointments with his oncologist in Iowa City to monitor his bloodwork. Kyden is happy, generally healthy and attending preschool with his friends. Kyden is a brave little boy, a gift, and a reminder to all of us at Field of BIG Dreams why we exist – to provide critical resources for programs serving children who’ve been diagnosed with cancer, and to support the whole family during dark times, so they can begin to dream again about better days ahead.