It wasn’t that many years ago that Tyler sat outside St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital® as participants in the St. Jude Memphis Marathon® ran through its campus.
The St. Jude patient had been diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia in 2013 when he was six years old. He couldn’t walk, but he was able to cheer for the thousands of runners who help raise millions of dollars each year to support the St. Jude mission.
“It's those people who support and give money to St Jude that help keep the hospital going. It helped keep me personally going because it was incredible to see how they support you,” Tyler said. “Seeing how they smile as they run by you and how they clap and just give you so much love and joy, you just feel like, despite going through such a tragedy, it feels like it doesn't feel so bad.”
Now Tyler is one of them.
On Dec. 2, 2023, Tyler is set to run the entire 26.2 miles of the marathon, raising money to help save the lives of kids like him. The St. Jude Memphis Marathon® Weekend is the is the largest single-day fundraiser for St. Jude.
“I'm a senior in high school and I'm ready to see where life takes me. I'm actually running the marathon this year because I want to be able to show kids like me … it's okay to feel in pain, but you can do anything that you put your heart to,” he said.
Tyler underwent two-and-a-half years of treatment.
Looking back on Tyler’s journey, today his family is amazed and grateful.
“It's a miracle,” said Michelle, his mom.
Families don’t know what’s ahead when they first hear the word cancer.
“We watched him struggle. We watched him battle up and down. And when he actually took his senior pictures and it was so emotional knowing how far he's come,” she said.
After watching his son go through diagnosis, treatment and physical therapy, it’s gratifying to see his determination to finish the marathon, said his dad, Sean.
Tyler has been training. But 26.2 miles is a long run.
“So, I know that he's going to have to really work even that much harder to get through those 26 miles and seeing all the progress. It's just amazing,” Sean said.
Tyler is the youngest in his family, with two older sisters, Lexie and Abbie.
Lexie remembers when Tyler wasn’t allowed to play contact sports. He tried soccer, but it didn’t click. Then, he found running.
“And I know how much of an escape it has been for him and how much joy it brings to him, and he just wants to show other kids that they can do it too,” Lexie said. “It just makes me so happy that he's able to put himself out there.”
Abbie said St. Jude gave them the life they enjoy today.
“They gave us a second chance at being a family. Without St Jude, we wouldn't have Tyler. We wouldn't have all of these memories that we've had for the past few years,” Abbie said. “And they've given us hope and they continue to give us hope that they're going to keep treating the kids that walk in the doors every single day.”
For the past few years, Tyer has run the half marathon through the St. Jude campus.
“I may have broken down and cried because it was so emotional to see,” he said. “I was once there and now I'm here. And I'm hoping that in the back of my mind, the entire race, I'm hoping that someone over there sees me and thinks, you know what, I'm going to do this once I get out of treatment. And then, they'll be the next one.”