by ADAM GRUENEWALD
Dana Hoof continues to cherish the memories of her late husband, Daryl.
While cancer took the life of Daryl at the age of 34 this past July, Dana takes some comfort remembering that she has known her lifelong love since the two were first-graders.
Those memories and the times they shared since Daryl was first diagnosed three years ago, helps Dana, who returned to work on Monday at Ridgeview Medical Center in Waconia. She will share her story as the honorary caregiver for the NYA Relay for Life on Saturday, Sept. 21.
In addition to family and friends, certainly helping Dana cope are her three kids, Kya, 9, Brayden, 7, and Colby, 6.
Daryl was first diagnosed with cancer on July 30, 2010 with the terminal cancer, cholangiocarcinoma, during a yearly checkup at Mayo Hospital in Rochester.
The yearly checkups had occurred since 2008, when he was initially diagnosed with primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC), a disease of the bile ducts, which his twin brother Daryn also had.
PSC can lead to liver failure or cancer, leading to the annual test which found a cancer marker.
Another week’s worth of testing and warnings of potential outcomes, confirmed the cancer, resulting in a difficult time for the husband and wife who felt like they were world’s away from their kids.
“It made your fears official that that’s what you’re going to be dealing with,” Dana said. “And thinking of the little three kids we had to go home to, too, like how does life go on from here? Your world literally turns upside down and you don’t know how to go forward.”
Since the very beginning, their three kids, Kya, 9, Brayden, 7, and Colby, 4, have understood that their dad had cancer, which was different than an earache or stomachache.
As chemotherapy continued, the kids and their parents adjusted life around doctors’ appointments and understanding if their dad couldn’t take part in an activity.
While Daryl’s decline was continuous, a rough patch in January led to an emergency procedure so Daryl could eat, but he had a quicker decline a few weeks before his death leading to hospice care Marie Steiner Kelting Hospice House in Chaska.
“Towards the end they knew that daddy’s special medicine was no longer working and that he was going to go be with Jesus before we want him too, but it’s not a choice,” she said. “We just prayed that he’s as comfortable as can be.”
Dana said her kids have been resilient throughout, but their dad’s funeral was the first one they experienced.
“It isn’t fair that they’re attending their dad’s as their first one,” she said. “But they’ve done very, very well.”
In the three years since diagnosis, Dana and the kids remember with thankfulness and fondness the time spent with Daryl.
“I would think it would be a lot worse if we had less time to absorb everything,” she said.
Dana also has her memories from childhood growing up in Lester Prairie, knowing the easy-going, fun and genuine Daryl since first grade, and dating him since their junior year of high school, graduating together in 1997.
“We had a crush on each other in first,” she said. “We’ve known each other forever.”
Dana attended Gustavus Adolphus to pursue nursing and Daryl went to Bethany Lutheran College, playing baseball there, before working in construction for Automated Building Components and later Munson Lakes Nutrition in Howard Lake.
Daryl, a centerfielder, is a member of the Lester Prairie Sports Hall of Fame and played for Winsted’s town team for over 10 years and also coached.
“His real love of sports was baseball,” she said.
An avid hunter and fisher, he also enjoyed watching and playing sports and being outdoors.
His health limited him from attending a lot of Brayden and Colby’s T-ball games and Kya’s piano recitals this past year, but he would spend time with them when he could, whether it was outside or playing in the house.
“He was a very involved dad and a very fun parent,” she said. “He’d be the one that would be making gingerbread houses and snowmen and snow forts and sledding outside with the kids. He was super fun.”
For Dana now, the change since his death has been difficult, but she knows she can continue to rely on the close friends and family who helped with meals, gas cards and taking care of the kids when Daryl was ill. She knows they will always share their memories of Daryl with her kids.
“Quite a few friends are still in the area that we graduated with and have known both of us forever,” she said. “So that will help a lot too, that they’ll (my kids), through stories, get to know the best they can of dad. That’s helpful to me that if they have questions or something, they can easily find an answer.”
In addition to friends, Dana and Daryl found some guidance from their confirmation youth pastor, Bill Metzger, who is now at Holy Cross Lutheran Church in Cary, Ill., and came back to Lester Prairie to officiate the service.
“We’ve never questioned ‘why us?’ or we’ve never questioned our faith,” said Dana. “Towards the end he even said ‘I get to be with God and Jesus.’”
Dana’s faith has also become stronger.
“There’s been things throughout the journey, little signs of things,” she said, recalling when Daryl had a full cardiac arrest in May 2011. “There’s just little things that there’s obviously a higher power that be. I’m glad we have the faith…. It’s gotten stronger. There’s just a comfort level there.”
Dana added that the experience has enhanced her life views.
“You learn that you do not judge other people because everybody has their battle they’re dealing with,” she said. “Everybody grieves differently and everybody deals with things differently. Not that I’ve ever been that kind of person, but your view of life is different. Less critical of things and just kind of have to think what’s best for me or what’s best for my family, rather than caring about what anybody else thinks. And just caring more for people… and just being more easy-going, probably more like Daryl… It’s still a learning process, how do I pick up the pieces from here? Because we’ve been together forever and for me to be by myself with the kids.”
When contacted by the Relay for Life, she accepted the opportunity to speak, not knowing if she would be able to share her story again.
“I’ve very blessed and fortunate they asked, but obviously it’s so soon after the death that it will be hard,” she said. “In memory of Daryl, in honor of our family, I felt like I needed to do it.”
She also recognizes the importance of the Relay for Life in support of the American Cancer Society.
“Even though Daryl died, because of Relay raising the money he got to live as long as he could live with the advancements in chemo and all the (medicines),” she said. “If this would have happened five years ago, 10 years ago, 20 years ago, he would have been dead a lot sooner. It’s a very good purpose, but obviously everyone’s result is different… We would like him here, but towards the end, he wasn’t who he was and cancer got the best.”
The NYA Relay for Life will be held on Saturday, Sept. 21, at the Central High School Track.
Daryl is also survived by parents Larry and Jeanette Hoof of Lester Prairie; brother and sister-in-law Daryn and Melanie Hoof of Lester Prairie; sister and brother-in-law Lori and Jason Quast of Howard Lake; grandmothers Ruth Hoof of Lester Prairie, Arlys Pawelk of New Germany; mother-in-law and father-in-law Diane and Ralph Prehn of Lester Prairie; brother-in-law and sister-in-law Dan Prehn and fiancée Kim Mosiman of Portland, Oregon; uncles and aunts Lynette and Ronald Tellers of Young America, Donald and LaJean Hoof of Lester Prairie, Shirley Vinkemeier of Chanhassen, Lynette and Richard Buckentin of Hamburg, James and Julienne Hoof of Lester Prairie; cousins, nieces, nephews other relatives and friends.
The Norwood Young America Relay for Life will be held on Saturday, Sept. 21, from 11 a.m. to midnight. Among the events are a silent auction, kids fun run, carnival, bean bag tournament and a 5K.
For more information or to get involved, call one of the following tri-chairs – Pat Zellmann at 952-467-3819, Kim Tellers at 952-467-3637 or Dar Mondor at 952-467-2506.
Contact Adam Gruenewald at [email protected]