When asked “if there was anything you could share with the world, what would it be”, Tyler didn’t hesitate. “I wish people knew that September is Childhood Cancer Awareness month. Everyone knows that October is Breast Cancer Awareness month.” This subject hits very close to home for Tyler and his family.
In his 15 years of life Tyler has endured a lot. At the age of 8, while in the prime of his mini-cup driving career, Tyler became ill with what the family thought was a stomach bug. When his throwing up persisted, he was tested and the results came back with the dreaded “C” word. Tyler was diagnosed with Medulloblastoma, the most common brain tumor found in children. His particular type of cancer accounts for 18% of all pediatric brain tumors, according to the American Brain Tumor Association.
Tyler’s first course of treatment was an 8 hour surgery to remove tumors. Surgery was followed by 31 rounds of radiation and 9 major chemo treatment over 15 months. The cancer treatments were extremely hard on his body. “He would cry in his sleep because it hurt so much,” says Carrie, Tyler’s mom. While Tyler’s memories of the grueling months of treatment are hazy, he can still recall the pain.
So this brave young man has made it his personal mission to educate his community about Childhood Cancer. It comes down to simple math; the more awareness there is for cancer in children, the more donations and funding are given. The more donations and funding that occur, the more research happens and treatment options are created, equaling more opportunities for sick and dying children. According to the I Care I Cure Childhood Cancer Foundation, each year in the United States 13,500 children, age 19 and under, are diagnosed with cancer. Each day 36 children are diagnosed. These numbers all add up to cancer being the leading cause of death among children under of the age of 15 in the United States. Despite having a gentle voice, Tyler is doing all that he can to assure that his message is heard. In September, with the help of Fort Collins High School Speech and Language Clinician, Colleen Reyes, Tyler shared his cause at school. He set up a table where he passed out free yellow ribbons to raise awareness among his peers and school staff about Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.
Cancer has shaped Tyler in a profound way. Like many cancer survivors, there are side effects that accompany treatment. Tyler’s pituitary gland was damaged from treatment, which requires that take medications for the rest of his life, one of which is hormone replacement. With treatment he will continue to grow, however it will occur at a slower rate than his peers. Sometimes peers don’t understand why Tyler is smaller and can be unkind. With strength and determination Tyler uses his experience to educate people and fight for his fellow cancer patients.
After a fight for his life, Tyler is now cancer free! As a cancer survivor, Tyler is plagued by the constant fear of cancer reoccurring. “The hardest part of having cancer was to deal with having friends going through it,” said Tyler. “He watched a lot of friends die,” added Carrie. Tyler’s first friend he battled cancer with was recently diagnosed with a reoccurrence of cancer after 5 years being clear. “(It’s) hard to not know what is going to happen and what is in the future,” shared Tyler.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t long before Tyler found himself in another fight for his life. When Tyler was 5 years old he starting racing mini-cup cars competitively. “He was really good!” shared mom Carrie. While he was going through his cancer treatment the racing community rallied around him as one of their own. It was no surprise that as soon as his body was up to it, Tyler jumped back into the driver’s seat. The first race back, after winning the fight with cancer, Tyler suffered a car accident that left him in a coma. Six days after his accident, Tyler woke in a hospital with no memory of what had happened. As a result of the accident he suffered a traumatic brain injury. He spent 6 weeks in the hospital, re-learning basic skills such as walking, eating and much more. Tyler has new struggles and is figuring out how to live life under a new set of circumstances, but the 15 year old is forging ahead. His strength, courage and true selflessness in the face of adversity are inspiring and something we can all strive to achieve.
Poudre School District Integrated Services Director: Sarah Belleau 2407 Laporte Avenue, Fort Collins, CO 80521