Sometimes, you hear the story about a person that touches your soul. Deep down, it strikes a nerve. You smile. You laugh out loud. Sometimes, you cry. That’s how I feel every time I read a social media update or a comment about one very incredible young man.
Tyler Larson is from a little town in the middle of North Dakota. What it lacks in amenities, it makes up for in its supportive population. As Tyler’s family worked through all the demands it took to deal with his sudden and difficult cancer diagnosis, people all over town jumped to provide the support they needed. What happened next was incredible. Tyler’s story spread, and soon people from all over the United States were sporting #TeamTyler on shirts and social media pages. Below, you’ll find Tyler’s story, written by his mother, Annie.
196 Days of Cancer
When someone in your family gets sick, I mean really sick, time slows down. It is as if we were all just holding our breath for seven months. 196 days from when we first found out to the day he was pronounced free of cancer and yet it feels like we have lived a complete lifetime in that short span.
“Tyler is a 17 year-old male who was diagnosed with multifocal CNS (Central Nervous System) germ cell tumors…” Germinoma. Brain cancer. This is how all of his important documents would start, and believe me, I have read them all. He was diagnosed on February 17th of 2016 after having vision problems. After months of optometry and ophthalmology visits we were referred to the Mayo clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. They found several tumors in his brain. They were malignant and were spreading. The largest in his optic nerve chiasm pressing again the nerves, damaging them, creating the blindness and blurred vision. The cancer was also in his CSF (Cerebral Spinal Fluid). I remember while we were reviewing the original MRI the doctor had said “Do you see all of this white? It shouldn’t be here,” and all I could think was that his brain was lit up like a Christmas tree.
You go through the stages of grief; shock or disbelief, denial, bargaining, guilt, anger, depression, and acceptance/hope. My favorite was anger. I remember researching Germinoma late one night and becoming lost in the colors of ribbons and months of cancer. His was gray and I hated it. I despised the fact that my beautiful boy was reduced to a color and a month. “Go gray in May” the web site said cheerily and I cried. For the first time since he had been diagnosed three weeks earlier I broke down and sobbed these full body sobs that left me hoarse and sore from clenching. I hated with everything that I had in me, not only the cancer itself, this invisible enemy that stole our happiness and innocence, but also the previous doctors that hadn’t diagnosed it sooner. Finally I screamed out “Why?!” How were we ever supposed to survive this?! The testing and blood work. MRIs, spinal taps, blood and platelet transfusions. The stereotactic biopsy and the craniotomy. Four rounds of chemotherapy and 18 sessions of proton beam radiation.
Looking back it is easy to see how blessed we were. God was right there, holding us during the times it seemed that we just couldn’t stand. We prayed continually and when we couldn’t others did. I was very public throughout Tyler’s treatment. I updated people through Facebook and email, pouring my soul out at times, and the response was humbling. Tyler was put on prayer lists not only locally but throughout the country. His junior class in Harvey High School put on a benefit as well as made Team Tyler t-shirts and silicone bracelets. Fundraisers were organized in my home town of Fisher, Minnesota, and the town we now call home, the beautiful Harvey, North Dakota. People from all over were constantly sending inspirational quotes or messages of encouragement, even people I didn’t know. The day Tyler underwent a craniotomy to remove the optic nerve tumor Facebook was flooded with pictures of people wearing their Team Tyler gear, posting where they had stopped to pray and messages of love and support. They changed their cover photos to the Team Tyler logo, made signs and shared statues. It was beautiful. Now, the 196 days are behind us but the love has not left. There are still pictures being sent to us of people wearing their bracelets in support, still prayers being lifted and for that we are truly blessed.
Annie Larson is a writer, artist, baker, decorator, mother, wife, and inspiration to all who meet her. Her son, Tyler, is a senior in high school with plans to attend the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks next fall. He lives with his parents, one brother and three smiling little sisters.