Being EXCEPTIONAL Lessons From My Son
Written By: Jeff Easton
I once sat in an office with a gentleman, and I listened as he laid out his life and talked to me about the different choices he wished he would have made in his life. We shared tears, laughter, and life experiences together; it was a surreal experience and something I will never forget. He talked about it being time for him to stop being MEDIOCRE and time for him to start being EXCEPTIONAL. As I have watched him and stayed in contact with him, it has been inspiring for me to watch him stop “getting by” by merely being mediocre to becoming EXCEPTIONAL in his choices, what he wants, and what he wants to become in his life.
I know this experience I witnessed and continue to witness can apply to each of us. I invite each of us to improve and to have a desire to become a “healthier” person. I invite each of us to become EXCEPTIONAL in whatever we are doing in our lives, to stop being mediocre and just "getting by." I invite each of us to seriously reflect on what that means to become EXCEPTIONAL – stop blaming others, start taking ownership for our own choices, accept the consequences for the choices that we make, and stop "getting by." As we each begin to become EXCEPTIONAL as employees in our chosen occupations, students, fathers, mothers, friends, siblings, wives, husbands, providers, grandparents or whatever we choose to become EXCEPTIONAL in, don’t hold back, be all in, give 100% and make no excuses.
In my own personal life, there are some areas where I don't hold back, I am all in, I give 100%, I don't make excuses, I don't blame others for me not being and becoming EXCEPTIONAL. This applies to me as a husband to my wonderful and beautiful wife, the religion I participate in, and as the CFO of the Med One entities (Med One Group). I don't and won't accept mediocrity, I am truly all in, I don't hold back, I give 100% and accept the consequences of my choices, there are no excuses. In other parts of my life, I am striving to become EXCEPTIONAL and frankly need to stop being mediocre and "getting by." I need to become EXCEPTIONAL, stop making excuses, and accept nothing less.
My son Tyler is a great example of being EXCEPTIONAL and not accepting mediocrity in his life. He is all in, he gives 100%, does not make excuses and does not blame others, he is EXCEPTIONAL. As a father, I need to improve and become EXCEPTIONAL, to stop being mediocre, "getting by," and learn from the example of my inspiring son. Tyler is a unique and special young man. If you were to look at Tyler or see a picture of him, he would look like many other 17-year-old teenage boys.
Tyler is also very different than perhaps every other 17-year-old teenager in the United States, as well as possibly throughout the world. Tyler has an extremely rare cancer called pheochromocytoma. Shortly after Tyler’s 11th birthday, we found his first pheochromocytoma tumor located on his adrenal gland as he was experiencing severe headaches and extremely high blood pressure. Thanks to a wonderful pediatrician he was diagnosed correctly, the tumor was removed along with his adrenal gland. Another tumor and symptoms did not appear again until a little bit before his 13th birthday. Shortly after his 13th birthday, primary care for his condition was moved from the Huntsman Cancer Institute and Primary Children's Hospital in Salt Lake City to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, Maryland. In the summer of his 13th birthday, Tyler's tumors became metastatic (which only happens 10% of the time with these types of tumors); he had tumors on his lungs, liver, kidney, and in his abdominal cavity.
Over the last 4 ½ years Tyler has made roughly 15 different trips across the country to the NIH, had two additional surgeries of over 16 hours, had roughly 40 tumors removed, been to the University of Iowa to confer with the doctors there, has taken more blood pressure medication than I can comprehend (and still does on a daily basis), has blood drawn monthly, has more MRI’s and CT scans than I have dreamt possible, and yet you would NEVER know by looking at Tyler. Tyler is EXCEPTIONAL. He does not settle for mediocrity.
As a freshman in high school, he tried out for and made the freshman basketball team and then had to retire two months into the season as his cancer would not allow him to continue to play. Later that spring, he had surgery (at the NIH) for over 9 hours, removing over 30 tumors and took 3 months for him to recover from. I will never forget what the surgeon said to my wife coming out of the surgery, "I did everything I could in there, I operated as if I was operating on my 12-year-old daughter." He could not believe what he saw inside of Tyler. We have learned since this time in meeting with doctors at the NIH and University of Iowa, that another surgery for Tyler could be catastrophic to him.
Tyler, during his sophomore year, received his Eagle Scout, completing each and every requirement just as every other young man does, no exceptions, no excuses, just being EXCEPTIONAL and having great leaders around him. As he could no longer play basketball at a competitive level, Tyler then decided to try out for the tennis team. Tyler made the varsity team as a sophomore and played #3 singles, he made it to the semifinals of state – he had not played tennis since he was 10 years old. As a junior, he again made the varsity team and played #2 doubles, where he again made it to the semifinals of state and helped his team to an overall 3rd place finish at the state championship. Tyler is EXCEPTIONAL and does not accept mediocrity.
At the end of his junior year, Tyler decided that running for a student body officer position was something he would like to do. Tyler wanted to serve, help, and inspire others. He ran for a student body position for his senior year and was elected by the student body. Tyler was EXCEPTIONAL before, but he has taken being EXCEPTIONAL to a whole other level in this new role. Tyler was selected to be the student body president for the entire school for his senior year. Myself and my wife (Tyler’s mom) were nervous about this as we knew the expectation, commitment, effort, and time this would require. Why is Tyler able to do this? I submit it is because he is EXCEPTIONAL and does not accept mediocrity.
There are over 2,400 students in the high school that Tyler attends, and I would imagine most of those kids feel loved, cared for, and important by Tyler. Everyone he sees, he says "hi" to and connects with them, he looks them in the eye, he gives them a hug, he knows many, many of their names, from the freshmen to the seniors. The theme that Tyler and the other student body and class officers came up with this year is "Stand Together," no matter what race, sex, sexual orientation, or how you view the world, he has encouraged everyone to be kind and to "Stand Together." How do I know and feel this? It is strictly from watching his example and what others have said to my wife and me. The administration and parents at the school have commented on how there is a different feel at the school this year. The other day, I was picking up my dry cleaning when the girl working there asked if "I was Ty Easton's dad" (our mannerisms are eerily similar), and I said "yes." She then said, "he is so nice, he probably doesn't even know who I am, but he is always so nice and says ‘hi’ to me in the hallways.” I have had countless parents reach out and comment on how kind Tyler is to each of their kids, no matter their age, sport they play, or extra-curricular activity they are in, he truly is kind and cares about everyone, he is EXCEPTIONAL.
Tyler currently has tumors on his spine, liver, kidney, one lung, and throughout his body. Over the past couple of months, his cancer has gotten worse. No one (adult or pediatric) has ever been cured of this type of cancer, 66% of the patients pass away within the first 5 years of being diagnosed, Tyler was diagnosed with the tumors going metastatic (cancer) in the summer of 2015, he is roughly 4 ½ years in. Each day his body hurts and aches; each day, he deals with unbearable headaches, blood pressure that is very high, and many days, he deals with shaking and profuse sweating. It is hard for Tyler to get up and be EXCEPTIONAL, but he won't accept mediocrity, and he does everything he can to the best of his ability, no excuses.
This November 11 – December 20, was “Charity Month” at Corner Canyon High School, and this year the charity chosen by Tyler and his team was Make-A-Wish Utah. They raised tens of thousands of dollars during the month for charity. This is a charity that hits home as it provides wishes to children with cancer. Tyler and many others went out on a daily basis, raising funds for Charity Month. To be honest, as his parents, his mom and I, at times, wish he would just relax and let his wonderful team around him take care of much of this and not have the wear and tear on his body. However, Tyler is EXCEPTIONAL and wants to be fully involved in this. Tyler is extremely unselfish and truly wants to help and serve others, he just wants to be a normal teenage boy.
As Tyler’s parents, it is humbling for his mom and me to watch our son be in pain and struggle on a daily basis as he deals with what is his reality, which he has not chosen in any way. The cancer that Tyler has is simply caused by a gene in his body, a gene that his maternal grandmother, mother, and oldest sister have as well, but no tumors have ever occurred or manifested themselves in any of them. However, it is even more humbling, inspiring, and amazing to see the faith that Tyler has and how he treats others, inspires others, and conducts himself. Tyler is EXCEPTIONAL.
Tyler has not had radiation or chemotherapy to this point in time, as none of these treatments have had success on Tyler's type of cancer. There is a new radiation therapy trial that has had some success in preventing further growth of neuroendocrine tumors (the family of tumors of which Tyler has). As a pediatric patient (under 18 years old) there is no study currently open (University of Iowa has been trying to get one open for over 7 months now, we met with them in June in Iowa), when he turns 18 on April 9, 2020, he will then be able to participate in the radiation therapy at the NIH where a study is ongoing. We can’t wait for Tyler to get to the age of 18 and begin treatment.
Tyler is inspiring, he is amazing, he is loved by everyone, he is kind, and he is simply EXCEPTIONAL. I invite all of us to follow
Tyler’s example and be EXCEPTIONAL!