My story is one of perseverance. My purpose each day was to push through the hard times in order to enjoy the good times. I think perseverance can be everyone's story...it just depends on how we respond to adversity.
It's not a roadblock, just a hurdle.
Throughout his youth, Tyler was challenged with various physical ailments that revealed his fierce determination. Born without hearing, ear tube surgery was the first of more than 20 surgeries, including Pectus-Excavatum, Septoplasty and Spinal Fusion, before Tyler's 18th birthday. Despite all the medical challenges Tyler overcame, it was the cancer diagnosis that knocked the wind out of him.
Late afternoon, in the middle of October 2016, Tyler's parents sat him down to say the biopsy results were in...he had stage 2 Hodgkin's Lymphoma. After processing the news for a few minutes, Tyler asked, "Can I still go to basketball practice tonight?"
Basketball practice. Just two days after a biopsy, with stiches still fresh in his neck, that's what a 15 year-old high school freshman wanted to do when he received the worst news of his life. His parents response was an emphatic, "YES!".
Where courage and strength meet grit
Over the course of his six months in treatment, Tyler went to every basketball practice and game. His desire to preserve his youth, drove him to attack treatment with determination and grit. First to arrive at the clinic doors each morning for chemotherapy, Tyler was home by mid-afternoon to work with tutors. By 7pm, Tyler was at basketball practice--fighting through nausea, fatigue, mouth sores, difficulty breathing, a weakened immune system and neuropathy. The neuropathy was evident when warming-up before a game, Tyler sprained his ankle after taking a shot. The injury sidelined him for just over a week, but it felt like month as the excitement and camaraderie he enjoyed as a player was the highlight and focus of his day. Tyler finished the season strong in late February 2017.
Just after his 16th birthday in March 2017, Tyler completed treatment and was declared "cancer-free"!
Immediately, Ty started training for football season! After sitting out two years of football due to the pectus bar in his chest, and in anticipation of it being removed in July (as previously planned), he was excited to get back on the field! Then in April, Tyler's doctor said the bar needed to stay in for another year because the chemo had slowed down his body's healing--the bar work was not complete. Hopes of football dashed, Ty pivoted and began basketball training instead.
Training at home that summer, unaware chemo had made his bones more fragile, Tyler broke his back in two places. He spent weeks on bed rest but it didn't heal. In September, just a week into his Sophomore year of high school, Tyler had back surgery. Hardware was inserted during the procedure and after a lengthy recovery, it was a declared a success! Tyler worked hard to get in shape and was ready for basketball season, Now standing at 6'4", Tyler helped lead the team to their first District Championship. That spring, the pectus bar was urgently removed as Tyler had out grown it--opening up the possibility to play football as a junior!
With every bit of the excitement built up over three years off the sport, Tyler displayed great athleticism and talent as a tight end on the Varsity Football team. He earned All-State honors, and was soon being recruited by colleges all over the country. Accumulating more than 30 Division I full scholarship offers, Tyler committed to Harvard University in June 2019.
As a senior, Tyler enjoyed a spectacular year of football, basketball and academic achievement. He graduated high school, amidst COVID-19, in June 2020 and reported to Harvard in August. Though all Ivy League football games were cancelled for the season, Tyler practiced with the team and anticipates an opportunity to get on the field for the Crimson during the 2021-22 season!
When hope looks like you
Beginning in middle school, Tyler showed signs of an entrepreneur's spirit. He and his four brothers (and sister) began a landscaping business and he dabbled in online content creation. After Tyler's cancer treatment, he became a public speaker, and when the scholarship offers started, Tyler's media engagement increased substantially.
Though his 10-inch high medical file may say otherwise, Tyler knows he's fortunate. All his experiences, the good and the tough, have made him more determined to achieve his dreams. The same experiences made him aware of the difficulties so many young cancer patients face.
Time in treatment ranges from 6-36 months for children with cancer, and some need repeated treatments if they don't respond initially--much of their childhood is lost to treatment and recovery. Throughout Tyler's treatment, his family, his team, his school, his doctors, and his community opened their hearts to support him. And many organizations, Sentara Pediatric Physicians, CHKD, Rock Solid Foundation, Bite Me Cancer, Ronald McDonald House, and Make-a-Wish gave Tyler and his family opportunities for assistance and escape. Children need their childhood preserved while in treatment and communities can really help!
Angels Among Us
Today, through the Tyler Neville Foundation, and its subset Athletes Against Lymphoma, Tyler strives to be a bright light to children in cancer treatment. He wants to mobilize the community to pull resources and bring smiles, excitement and hope to the young lives that need it most.
Starting with his local community, Tyler plans to bring his message to communities all over the country.
No childhood should be left behind.