It’s snowing in Taupo, it’s July 2020, and Jacqui is with her family, enjoying a holiday away from their home in Auckland. But, her eldest son is not having a good time. He has typical flu-like symptoms, and he has a painful ulcer on his tongue.
“We all went into the snow to play – except Hayden. He was too tired, so he sat in the car. That wasn’t like him.”
The following week, Hayden took Monday off school. And on Tuesday morning, after sweating through his duvet, and with a high fever, Jacqui took her son to the doctor, who ran blood tests.
Later that afternoon, Jacqui got the phone call. It was confirmed – Hayden had acute myeloid leukaemia and urgently needed to go to Starship.
“I was like, ‘Excuse me? Is this a life-threatening disease?’ And the doctor said, ‘Yes, potentially.”
What followed was a whirlwind of emotions, introductions to doctors, and plans for all kinds of procedures and treatments. They were introduced to LBC Support Services Coordinator Tim, who provided information and a supportive ear at the beginning.
“It was a very long five months. But Hayden had a good attitude about it all. That’s the kind of person Hayden is at heart.”
A year later, in July 2021, Hayden relapsed and he had to go back to hospital for another four months. “He took that very badly. He was quite depressed.”
But, having Tim there made an even bigger difference, this second time around.
“Tim organised a Wi-Fi box for Hayden, to boost his internet because the signal in his hospital room wasn’t great. He loves gaming, so that helped lift his mood.”
“One time, Hayden wanted a specific pizza from this restaurant that couldn’t deliver to the hospital. Well, Tim drove and got it for Hayden, just to cheer him up.”
The lengths that Tim took to support the family meant that Jacqui could focus on being there for her son, supporting him on his journey and eventually helping him recover from his blood cancer.
“Hayden went through a phase of watching horror movies in hospital. I spent five nights a week with him, so we’d watch them together, and he’d laugh when I got scared.”
“Sometimes, I’d leave to use the bathroom… and I’d have to walk down the corridor, and I’d be gone for a few minutes. Then he would get scared, and he’d call my phone, just to say, ‘Come back, mum!’”
And, Jacqui would do just that. She would hurry back, join her son and they would get through the scary bits together, despite feeling scared herself.
This is how they continue to tackle Hayden’s blood cancer journey, now that he is in recovery and Jacqui is aware of every moment they have together.
“We grew close in hospital. He’d tell me that he really appreciated me being there, and I am so grateful for that.”