Dinner to benefit 3-year-old cancer patient

Dustin and Jennifer Backes sit with their 3-year-old son, Hayden. A benefit will be held Aug. 24 in honor of Hayden, who suffers from neurofibromatosis.

Dustin and Jennifer Backes sit with their 3-year-old son, Hayden. A benefit will be held Aug. 24 in honor of Hayden, who suffers from neurofibromatosis. Photo by Deborah Cote.

For Jennifer Backes, receiving her son’s cancer diagnosis left her in “complete and utter shock.”

“It was an eye-opening experience to see how life can turn around,” she said.

In October 2012, Backes and her husband, Dustin, discovered their 3-year-old son, Hayden, had neurofibromatosis, the diagnosis of which led to a series of medical tests, Backes said.

After an appointment to ensure that Hayden was not afflicted with glaucoma, a doctor recommended an MRI of his brain, which Backes initially “thought silly.”

According to Backes, Hayden lacked any symptoms that could suggest the need for an MRI; however, on Feb. 14, the MRI revealed two tumors and fluid on Hayden’s brain.

“We had no way of knowing how long it had been there,” Backes said.

Hayden underwent surgery the next day in order to remove the fluid from his brain and take a biopsy of the tumors, she said.

The results of the biopsy prompted the doctor’s recommendation for immediate chemotherapy treatment. The size and location of the tumor prohibited any sort of surgical removal, Backes said.

Backes and her husband located a doctor in Denver who specializes in treating the combination of neurofibromatosis and cancerous tumors.

Hayden now receives weekly chemotherapy treatments and semi-annual MRIs, she said.

The chemotherapy treatments are “a struggle” for Backes and Hayden because Hayden does not always understand the reason for the treatments, she said.

“We have to try to explain to him why we do this and no one else does,” Backes said.

In spite of all the immense challenges, Backes has relied on her faith and community for support, she said.

“My faith plays a very large role,” she said. “I would be lying if I said I wasn’t angry at first. The only thing I can control is attitude and (believe) that God has a bigger plan,” Backes said.

Backes said she has been surprised by the outpouring of love and support from the community.

“The support is humbling. If he or I are having a bad day, there are so many people we can call for help,” she said.

Much of the community support for the Backes family is evident in local efforts to organize a benefit dinner for them.

Erin Fick, a family friend, is spearheading the fundraiser. She and other members of the committee have been planning the benefit since March to help with the costs incurred by traveling to and from doctor’s appointments.

Fick said she also has been surprised by the generosity of the community.

“It’s absolutely amazing how many people want to help and contribute to the cause. Many people who do not even know Hayden, Jennifer and Dusty have donated out of the kindness of their heart,” Fick said.

The Aug. 24 benefit will take place from 5-7 p.m. at the Loose Creek Community Center and will feature a silent and live auction.

“Hayden is certainly a special little boy and the way he handles this tough situation with a smile on his face and that cute little laugh really makes one realize how trivial some of our problems really are,” Fick said.

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