Dyllen Yockey, pictured in the middle, with his closest supporters, aka #dyllenstrong.

Nine-year-old giving cancer the boot

August 27, 2018

Dyllen Yockey loves everything about being a cowboy. You can often find the 9-year-old outside riding horses or playing with a spread of toy farm animals at his home in Marshall, Minn.

Earlier this year, however, Dyllen started having severe stomach pain and wouldn’t play as much. His mom, Brittany Christensen, tried to comfort him, but she had an uneasy feeling.

“I had that mom instinct and I knew something was wrong,” Brittany said.

Before long, Dyllen had become so sick he needed to get to Sioux Falls by ambulance for specialized care. During surgery to remove an obstruction in his bowel, his surgeon discovered a baseball-sized tumor and knew just from looking at it that it was cancerous.

Dyllen was transferred to Sanford Children’s immediately to begin treatment for non-Hodgkin’s Burkitt lymphoma. His family struggled to accept the diagnosis.

“Our hearts were completely shattered,” Brittany said. “We were numb.”

She felt helpless seeing her spunky cowboy now fighting for his life.

“It’s hard to watch your child go through it. You can’t take it away,” she said.

Since his diagnosis, Dyllen and his family have relied on the Sanford Children’s pediatric oncology experts, nurses, staff and Child Life Specialists to get through the good and bad days.

“Dr. Daniel Calloway and the nurses here have been phenomenal with explaining to him that it is going to be OK and that he would feel much better once he went home,” Christensen said.

Donors to Sanford Cure Kids Cancer helped, too. Because of their generosity, patients like Dyllen benefit from specialized equipment, non-billed patient programs and services, and direct child and family assistance that helps with expenses not covered by insurance.

Today, Dyllen is doing great. He completed his last cancer treatment in August and has returned home filled with energy.

“It’s so good to see him run and jump on the trampoline or his imagination running wild like horses in the wind when he plays with his farm animals, which have over taken his room,” Brittany said. “It’s just so good to see him being a kid, not just the kid with cancer.”