Utah teen's life and legacy inspires Imagine Dragons to create foundation

Published: Thursday, Feb. 27 2014 10:00 a.m. MST

Tyler Robinson poses for a picture with his sister, Lauren.

Courtesy of Shannon Robinson

When Tyler Robinson was diagnosed with cancer, he knew it would change his life. When he attended an Imagine Dragons concert at a small Utah venue, he probably didn't know it would change his life — and the lives of many other people — as well.

"Tyler was an ordinary 16-year-old faced with an extraordinary challenge of being diagnosed with a rare soft tissue cancer called rhabdomyosarcoma — stage 4," Tyler's parents Shannon and Brent Robinson, of Sandy, Utah, wrote in an email to the Deseret News.

"Ordinary" in his parents' words, but Tyler's story and legacy have grown into something much more than ordinary.

Tyler's attitude and perspective began developing early in his life.

When he was 12 years old, Tyler had a staph infection that became septic. He stayed at Primary Children's Hospital in Salt Lake City for weeks. At this early age, Tyler began developing the resilience that would help him cope with near-death experiences.

Nine years later, Tyler was diagnosed with rhabdomyosarcoma, a rare type of cancer most often found in children.

Tyler needed 20 rounds of chemotherapy, an operation and six weeks of radiation. He was going to miss his junior year and some of his senior year at Brighton High School.

On the Tyler Robinson Foundation website, a letter from Tyler shares some of his feelings about the experience and how his membership in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints strengthened him.

"I remember going home and feeling so mad and depressed. I told my mom that I didn’t want to go through it — not a whole year of it. My bishop came over that night and gave me a blessing. He told me that people who go through hard things either become bitter and angry, or they learn from it and become stronger. He told me that I had a choice to make. From that night on I chose to be the bigger man."

Tyler had a more selfless outlook on life than many other 16-year-olds. The hospital nurses would squabble over who got to take care of him, and he'd give advice to others from his hospital bed. He had a positive perspective even in hardship.

"This year I’ve learned to be patient, and no matter how bad I felt, I pushed through the pain," he wrote in his letter online. "I found that there is no use complaining or feeling sorry for myself — it doesn’t help anything. Always try to stay positive and have faith."

Throughout his treatment, music helped Tyler. He was a fan of the Grammy-award-winning band Imagine Dragons when it started gaining popularity in Provo, Utah. It became one of his favorite bands, and the line "the road to heaven runs through miles of clouded hell" from "It's Time" became meaningful to him.

"He kind of took that on as his theme song," his brother Cole Robinson said. "Just to have that positive attitude of, 'I have to go through this if I’m going to be a better person.’ ”

Not long after Tyler's diagnosis, Tyler's older brother Jesse Robinson let the band know he was bringing Tyler to their concert at the Velour in Provo, Utah. The band dedicated "It's Time" to Tyler. While the band played it, Tyler's brother Jesse lifted Tyler on his shoulders. As Tyler sang along intensely, the band's frontman Dan Reynolds reached out to him, embracing him as they sang together.

In that moment, a bond was forged between Tyler and the band.

"They had never met; they had never talked," Cole Robinson said. "And my other brother Jesse put Tyler on his shoulders, you can see it on the video, and they sang that together. I don’t know if it was just in that moment where Dan, the lead singer, just felt something special. We know we certainly did on our end, but I think it just really stuck with them."

Try out the new DeseretNews.com design!
try beta learn more
Get The Deseret News Everywhere