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Mormon Arizona teen fights inoperable brain tumor with faith

By Megan Christensen

For the Deseret News

Published: Monday, May 12 2014 12:00 p.m. MDT

Students at Diamond Canyon Elementary School show their support during Tyler Tuesday.

Chris Hallsey

PHOENIX — When confronted with a rare tumor, Tyler Hallsey said he would do “whatever it takes” to fight the disease.

In February 2013, the once-athletic and agile 13-year-old was experiencing problems with his balance and coordination.

Hoping it was related to his age, Tyler’s parents took him to their family doctor, who suggested they go to Phoenix Children’s Hospital.

After looking at the results of Tyler’s MRI, the Hallseys received the devastating news: Tyler had an inoperable brain tumor called pontine glioma.

“He was scared — we all were,” said Chris Hallsey, Tyler’s dad. “After the doctor left, we talked about faith and commitment, and I just looked at him and said, 'This is your life, what do you want to do about it?' He looked me in the eye and said, 'Dad, I’ll do whatever it takes.' "

The day after Tyler’s diagnosis, Chris decided to start a Facebook page called “Whatever It Takes.” Within the first two days of the page’s creation, it had reached 1,000 likes. Now, more than a year later, it has more than 10,000.

Chris said many people post on the page, and he reads every one of the comments.

“They inspire me,” Chris said. “A lot of people say things like, ‘I haven’t prayed in 20 years and I walked away from God, and now I’m finding my way back because of Tyler’s faith.' "

Tyler has endured many trials since he was diagnosed, one of which was losing mobility in the left side of his body.

Chris said Tyler mourned that loss for one day before taking on the attitude of, “OK, what can I do with the right side of my body?”

Tyler’s faith has inspired his family, friends and many members of the community.

Shortly after he got sick, Diamond Canyon Elementary School started an event called “Tyler Tuesday.”

“Tyler had been a perfect student. He was kind, respectful and always did his homework,” Chris said. “When he got sick, everyone wanted to do something to support him.”

A friend of the Hallsey family made T-shirts that read “Whatever It Takes” for the students to wear on “Tyler Tuesday.”

Now, in addition to the school continuing “Tyler Tuesday,” the effort to support Tyler has spread worldwide.

“People from all over the world, including missionaries, send pictures of themselves wearing Tyler shirts,” Chris said. “A couple in Japan even held up signs for ‘Tyler Tuesday’ on their wedding day.”

Chris said that 80 percent of people who send pictures of themselves wearing Tyler gear don’t personally know the Hallsey family.

Community members have also been supportive.

Kenny Holland, a friend of Tyler’s and a local music artist in Phoenix, created an EP album called “Whatever It Takes,” featuring a song of the same title that was written for Tyler.

“It’s a really special song,” Chris said. “Kenny gave us the final studio version for Christmas, and it was the best present we got.”

The Hallsey family has found great comfort as they’ve leaned on their faith in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

“There are days when we don’t know if we’re going to make it at all, but we’ve had some special moments of understanding why Tyler would be going through this,” Chris said. “It helps knowing that he knew about his life plan before he came to earth, and that he was willing to accept his role here.”

Tyler is a great example of his faith, and it has had a profound effect on those around him.

Six weeks ago, Tyler was devastated to hear that his tumor was growing. However, instead of focusing on his own problems, he remembered another friend who was in the hospital and decided to visit him.

“That was the first thing he thought of when he got such horrible news, and that’s just who he is,” Chris said.

Megan Marsden Christensen is an intern with the Deseret News writing for the Faith & Family section. She recently graduated from BYU-Idaho with a bachelor's degree in communication.

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