Story of Hope: Tyler
Tyler is an energetic 6-year-old who doesn’t slow down. Except, perhaps, when he is on the green enjoying one of his favorite activities.
Tyler is an energetic 6-year-old who doesn’t slow down. Except, perhaps, when he is on the green enjoying one of his favorite activities: golf.
When we first met Tyler and his family in 2015, he had recently returned from St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital where he was treated for leukemia.
Today, he is still cancer free.
“He’s doing great, praise the Lord. He’s been in remission for two and a half years now and we are extremely blessed and very, very happy,” said Tyler’s mom, Courtney.
“He’s awesome. It’s as it nothing ever went wrong,” said Tyler’s dad, Joe.
Joe and Courtney weren’t sure if that would be the case back in the fall of 2014.
“He was having low-grade fevers, he was very lethargic and we had to take him to the emergency room a couple of times,” said Courtney.
A couple of months and an emotional roller coaster ride later, they heard the words no parents want to hear: Tyler had cancer.
“It’s devastating. I don’t think there’s anybody out there that would wish that on anyone, I mean, not your worst enemy, not on anybody, especially not on your own child. And that was, that’s something you don’t think is ever going to happen to you. And then when it does, you’re kind of thrown into a different world and you go into, I guess, survival mode because you just want to do everything you can to make him better, even though it’s really out of your control,” said Courtney.
“There’s so many unknowns. I mean, you’re thrown into all these different apprehensions of what’s going to happen, and is he going to get better, is this the last trip we’re going to have with him, that type of thing,” said Joe.
When the oncologist gave Joe and Courtney treatment options, they quickly turned to St. Jude.
“I asked her, ‘As a mother, if you were in my position, what would you do? Where would you take your child?’ And she said St. Jude,” said Courtney.
“All the different possibilities that were given to us were obviously great hospitals, but St. Jude just stood out as our best chance,” added Joe. “So it was a no brainer for us.”
They arrived in Memphis a couple of days later and a team of about five doctors began working on Tyler.
Tyler and his family spent six months at the hospital, but adapted fairly easily thanks to the care and services St. Jude provides.
“All the things that they help you out there with housing, and with the care that he’s getting, it’s easier to kind of focus on him. And not focus on exactly what’s happening. Because it is, it’s devastating,” said Joe.
“All the staff, they’re extremely friendly. Everyone from the doctors down to the people who sweep the floors, they all just treat you like you’re one of their own. And the doctors all remember the kids’ names. He’s not just another patient, they would remember Tyler’s name if they saw him in the hall. It’s little things like that that just made a huge difference for us,” said Courtney.
Tyler underwent five rounds of chemo, the first three considered intense, but handled it like a champ.
“He always had a smile on his face. We tried to make it as pleasant as possible. We never called it chemo, we called it his awesome sauce,” said Courtney.
Support from St. Jude, along with family and friends, helped Joe and Courtney handle their own emotions.
“There’s so many unknowns, but because they go through so many lengths to help you out, and to make things a little bit better for you, it’s definitely a big weight off your shoulders.”
Tyler still goes back to St. Jude once a year for a check-up. His next appointment is in May and his parents anticipate it will go well. In a couple more years, he will be considered cured.
“When that five year mark is up, we’re probably going to have a big party,” said Courtney.
Despite his cancer battle, Tyler still has good memories of St. Jude.
He said he enjoyed playing games, going to the gift shop and making arts and crafts. He particularly recalls enjoying building a gingerbread house at Christmas.
St. Jude covers the cost of all treatments, transportation, food and lodging, so families can focus on helping their child get better.
“No parents receives a bill. And they say that in the commercials, but I don’t think people realize how much a chemo treatment can cost. I mean, his cost, just one treatment cost $8,000. And some treatments cost upwards of $30,000,” explained Courtney. “So these families that are getting this care, if they have to pay for it themselves, we’d be in debt for the rest of our lives.”
It takes $2.4 million to run St. Jude every day. Donations through fundraisers like the Dream Home help make it all possible.
“Every little bit helps. Every little bit goes toward saving lives. It made a huge difference in our life and in Tyler’s life. And he’s here because of it,” said Joe.
“Even if you don’t buy a ticket for the dream home, just donating a dollar, five dollars, whatever, that makes a huge difference for families, for the hospital, for the staff, for everyone. And it’s a worthy cause. I mean, you’re helping to basically cure kids of cancer. And I can’t think of a better cause,” added Courtney.
Tyler's journey has taught those around him even more about gratitude and living in the present.
“It’s easy to take something like a child for granted. And it’s not until you are at risk of losing them that it really hits you hard. It’s, every day is a miracle. And every day is not a chance,” said Joe.
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This year’s $650,000 home is located in the beautiful Eagle Bluff Woods community off Highway 58 in Chattanooga. At more than 4,000 square feet, the four-bedroom, three-and-a-half bathroom home is the largest Dream Home in Chattanooga to date and the first to include a basement. The home and several other prizes will be given away on Sunday, June 25 during a special broadcast on Channel 3.
Tickets are available online, by phone at 1-800-750-6962 or at Regions Bank locations in Tennessee. Georgia residents can purchase tickets at a Regions bank location in Tennessee or by phone only.