By Alan Gionet
MEAD, Colo. (CBS4)– Tyler Swanson is a tough opponent to cancer. A defensive lineman in college, he is no pushover. But a tumor the size of a golf ball in the middle of his brain hid and grew until he started to feel its strange effects.
“It began with my left eye,” said Tyler.
He was teaching 6th grade science in the St. Vrain School District. Tyler, 26, was using his knowledge of football as a defensive line and strength for Mead High. He was working on his master’s degree. He and his wife Hannah have two beautiful little girls, Taya and Tessa. Tyler was too busy.
“I just chalked it up to me being tired and fatigued.”
That wasn’t it. His eye wasn’t working right.
“It would just kind of gaze and do whatever,” Tyler said.
A trip to an eye doctor brought a bit of a remedy. The eye doctor helped him with a film over his glasses to coax the eye to go straight. But there were other issues that were nagging.
“I became confused at certain things,” Tyler said.
He held his little daughter and fell asleep one day from exhaustion. His wife awoke him and asked why he was dangling her as he did.
“Why am I not even conscious of this?” he wondered.
Hannah pushed for a trip to the doctor.
“She’s the one who said, we’re going to get you checked out.”
The doctor’s office drew some blood and looked at him and said they’d know more in a week. Hannah wouldn’t accept the delay. Off they went for a second opinion. When doctors told Tyler he had cancer, his confusion delayed some of the realization.
“I was hearing my diagnosis, but I couldn’t quite process it,” he said. “Never once did I think, ‘Cancer, holy cow, I’m going to die from cancer,’ because I couldn’t think that deeply.”
But a week later, the emotion piled on. Thankfully, doctors found his cancer has not metastasized.
Tyler’s brain cancer is a type typically found in the young. Nine years old and up. He would get treatment at Children’s Hospital. As he began his treatment, Tessa turned a month and a day old. Oddly, the day Taya had turned a month and a day back in 2015, she had been diagnosed with bacterial meningitis. She would spend 51 days recovering at Children’s Hospital. Eighteen months later Tyler was there being treated for brain cancer. Taya recovered well. Tyler had a lot more ahead.
There were 30 rounds of radiation ahead. Chemo started easy, then after round three, the sickness started. Sometimes his treatments wore him out so much, he’s had to take five hours of naps to get through the day.
But Tyler had his wife and girls. They were strength. One of the pictures he shared shows Tyler and Hannah in T-shirts bearing their motto, “Swanson Strong.”
“I don’t think I’d be alive through any of it,” he said of Hannah’s support. “She was the glue that held the family together.”
Tyler’s treatments have been working well.
“I’m really excited to get back.”
He has been able to continue coaching, but teaching has been too much. The way things are going, Tyler expects to be back after the first of the year. It’s been his wife and children that helped him in the worst moments. And that’s a beautiful family. Tyler is still with them and planning to be for a long time.
“They’re they light of my life,” he said.