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 a dozen ear tube surgeries, before Tyler's 18th birthday. Despite all the medical challenges Tyler overcame, it was the cancer diagnosis that knocked the wind out of him.
On a fall afternoon in 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 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 a couple weeks, but it felt like months 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..
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 the summer as previously planned, he was excited to get back on the field!
But in late spring, Tyler's pectus 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. 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.
In spring of 2018, 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.
The beginning of 2019, Tyler received calls from football coaches all over the country. Accumulating more than 30 Division I full scholarship offers, Tyler committed to Harvard University in June. In his senior year, Tyler was the captain of the football and basketball teams--both of which enjoyed spectacular seasons.
Tyler also began accepting public speaking requests. He spoke as a cancer survivor about the need for cancer treatment funding for childhood cancers. Tyler spoke of his passion for sports and academic achievement, and how he overcame the many physical challenges he faced growing up.
Amidst COVID-19, Tyler graduated high school in June 2020 and reported to Harvard in August.
Though all Ivy League football games were cancelled for the season in the fall, Tyler practiced with the team, applying his grit and determiniation to every drill. He brought the same intensity to the classroom, and it was needed as the ciriculum was what you'd expect at Harvard--very, very difficult!
2021 - 2022
In 2021, Tyler played in all 10 games and caught 12 passes for 113 yards for an average of 11.3 yards per game. Climbing his way up the depth chart, Tyler became a standout tight end for the Crimson in 2022.
Tyler tied for first on the team in touchdowns (4), second in receptions (26) and third in yardage (302).
He averaged 11.62 yards per reception.
At the end of the 2022 season, he was named First-Team All-Ivy League... NEFW All-New England Team... Phil Steele First-Team All-Ivy League... Bluebloods First-Team All-Ivy League... and...New England Football Journal First-Team All-New England.
But more importantly, Tyler earned a 3.5 GPA, took on multiple leadership opportunities at Harvard and worked with other charities to bring attention and financial support to children with cancer.
In May 2023, Tyler made his final visit to CHKD-Norfolk as a patient, six years after finishing chemo.
He, along with his parents, visited the Oncology Center where nurses Michelle and Rob, as well as Dr. Lowe and his incredible staff, shared in the joy of the day. Looking around the ward, seeing the young faces of patients, Tyler was again consumed with gratitude. He recalled how the hospital not only saved his life, but gave him an incredible future. Every child on the floor today deserves to have the same opportunity for tomorrow.
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.