It all began with vision problems followed by months of optometry and ophthalmology visits. A referral to Mayo Clinic revealed their worst fear – cancer.
Months of testing and diagnostics revealed several malignant, cancerous tumors in Tyler’s brain. At 17 years old, Tyler was diagnosed with multifocal CNS (Central Nervous System) germ cell tumor, a form of brain cancer.
His life changed forever.
The largest of the tumors was in his optic nerve chiasm, causing the problematic vision. The quickly growing cancer cells had also spread to his cerebral spinal fluid, further complicating treatment. Tyler bravely underwent multiple sessions of chemotherapy, proton beam radiation, spinal taps and blood transfusions.
Tyler’s fight with cancer took a hopeful turn when he learned of the possibility that he could get his one true wish granted. He was filled with hope and found new strength to keep going. When Tyler realized that Make-A-Wish® North Dakota could make his fondest dream come true, if he was eligible, he started to think about and plan his wish. Once his eligibility was confirmed, Tyler’s attention completely shifted from the fight with cancer, to what his wish would be and he researched all the details of what his wish might look like. His focus shifted from cancer-fighting mode to one of hopefulness, excitement and anticipation.
When wish granting volunteers met Tyler they were anticipating being very involved with discovering Tyler’s one true wish. However, they were surprised and excited to hear that Tyler had put a lot of thought and consideration into his wish prior to their initial meeting. He wished to go to Lambeau Field to see a Green Bay Packers game and to get there by riding a train because he had never been on a train before. Being a Harry Potter fan, he found the idea of riding a train to Hogwarts fascinating and wanted the same experience.
Tyler and his family say that his wish granters, Lana and Michelle, made a huge difference in the process. He described them as friendly, passionate and they ensured that he and his family had everything they needed. Tyler says, “I want to give a special shout out to my wish granters for the packages and goodies that were constantly sent to me. Those little details went a long way in making the entire wish process even more special.” Tyler’s mom, Annie, agrees and says, “the volunteers from Make-A-Wish North Dakota were so good at including the whole family in the reveal, making the trip something almost magical to wait for.”
So, after months of planning, coordinating and a surprise wish reveal, Tyler’s wish came true. According to Annie, “having the wish experience during recovery was amazing for motivation and lifting his spirits.” In Tyler’s words, “it was worth it.” His parents, brother and girlfriend were able to accompany him to Green Bay, Wisconsin for his wish.
According to Tyler, there were many great parts about his wish experience and it is hard to pinpoint his favorite moment or experience. Getting to spend time with the players – people he looks up to – was definitely a highlight for him.
The wish experience connected Tyler’s family in a new way. Tyler saw his dad, an avid Vikings fan, wear Packers gear and his brother’s love for the Packers grow. Tyler’s mom also got to see her son laughing and having fun after many months of fighting brain cancer. Tyler was able to make many lifelong memories on his wish. Annie says, “we witnessed Tyler at his worst, his lowest point and the trip to Lambeau allowed us the opportunity to see Tyler at a game he had been dreaming about, a high point in his life.”
The transformational power of a wish lives beyond the wish experience. Tyler urges anyone currently dealing with a life-threatening condition, to “remain positive” and have faith.
Tyler will be starting college at the University of North Dakota in the Fall of 2017 to study History Education and minor in Non-Profit Management and Norwegian. Tyler is excited about college and continuing his work with the non-profit organization he started, The Penny House, which is a youth center for kids in his community.