At the age of 4, Tyler was diagnosed with Rhabdomyosarcoma, a fast growing form of cancer. Initially, he complained of a tooth ache that prompted his mother to take him to the dentist. During that visit, a panoramic x-ray of his jaw revealed a lemon-sized tumor on the left side of his jaw. Tyler soon underwent 18 months of chemotherapy followed by 6 weeks of radiation. The cancer treatment was successful, and Tyler has been in remission now for 14 years. While the intensive and aggressive treatment with radiation eliminated the cancer in Tyler's jaw, it also eliminated the cells necessary for normal, healthy jaw growth. The roots of his teeth, along with the surrounding jaw tissue, were completely killed by the radiation. Thus, his jaw and teeth stopped growing once the radiation was complete.
Tyler's sinus cavities were also affected by the cancer treatment, which ultimately resulted in two surgeries. He has had bottom teeth implants and a chin implant in order to correct his underdeveloped jaw as well. Surgical correction of the damaged areas, however, has been slow and difficult due to the lack of good tissue to work with. Furthermore, Tyler has had to wait until he reached his full growth potential before receiving additional implants to avoid the need for repeated implant replacements as he grew. In fact, he may need a replacement for the one chin implant he has already received.
Since Tyler has had to wait so long for additional implants, he has been living without upper teeth, and the simple task of eating has become a huge challenge for him. In addition, his undersized jaw no longer produces sufficient amounts of saliva for breaking down his food. He has even reached a point where he has to constantly carry water with him to substitute for his lack of saliva. As a direct result of the increasing difficulties with consuming and breaking down food, Tyler's weight and overall health have been affected. At an age when a young man needs more calories than ever, Tyler is getting far less than a sufficient amount.
Tyler is an 18 year old student at Keller Fossil Ridge. He has clearly overcome more than many of his high school classmates and still continues to endure an enormous physical challenge. Fortunately, he has reached a point in his growth where doctors are ready to give him the implants essential for improving his health and quality of life. On June 17, 2009, Tyler is scheduled to have screws placed in his jaw finally giving it proportionate expansion along with upper teeth implants. The 6 hour surgery will be preceded by 5 days of hyperbaric treatment. Once Tyler's body has adjusted to the corrections made to his jaw, his team of doctors will further evaluate his need for additional surgeries.
Read more about Rhabdomyosarcoma.