BOISE, Idaho — An eighth-grader at a Boise junior high school has spent the last year battling an aggressive form of leukemia, but thanks to his classmates, he isn't doing it alone.
Fourteen-year-old Tyler Weiss just started the school year at North Junior High when he was given the diagnosis that would forever alter his life. Going to school was off the table and he started rounds of intense treatment at St. Luke's Hospital to fight off the cancer.
“The day I got diagnosed I consider the worst day of my life so far," Tyler said. "It took me so long to realize there was something wrong with me, and when I was putting all the pieces together, the sadder and sadder I got."
Tyler’s mom and dad, Julie Madsen and Jim Weiss were both scared and worried about what the future might hold. The severity of Tyler's illness meant the family was at hospital around the clock - adding up to 200 days of living at St. Luke's.
With Jim and Julie spending so much time at the hospital, it left Tyler's twin brother, Ryan, home alone often. It took a toll on Ryan, but seeing his brother in so much pain was even more difficult.
“At the very start, Tyler was really sick and he was having trouble breathing, and it was really hard for me to see him like that," Ryan said.
Tyler's aggressive chemotherapy treatments are an ongoing struggle for the family. However, love that surrounded and supported Tyler and his family.
“We really had an army of angels, from personal family friends that would stay at our home, to the nurses in the hospital that would support us emotionally so we could support Tyler, and then probably the biggest piece is what happened here at North Junior High," Julie said.
Throughout the last year of treatment, each holiday brought something special that lifted Tyler's spirits.
"No holiday went by without Tyler receiving something special. He got a hundred Thanksgiving cards for Thanksgiving," Julie said. "For Christmas, we came home to a house with lights and a tree and gifts for both of our children. That got us through some of those really hard times, the holiday moments. All the contact that he had with other kids at school electronically, photos and videos, really helped him keep a positive spirit."
That consistent contact and connection between Tyler and his classmates didn't stop at surprises around the holidays. The entire school rallied around him, making wristbands that said 'Tyler Strong' and taking a massive group photo that spelled Tyler's initials in support of his battle with cancer.
“It feels so great to keep connected with all my fellow students at North, just to know how much they care about me and just send all the positive energy my way, I don't know where I would be today without them," Tyler said.
“These kids will never know how big of an impact they had on Tyler in the darkest most difficult times, but we will forever be grateful," Julia said. "To the kids and the administrators and our wonderful nurse for getting us through this with so much love."
Cathie Jonakin, the school nurse at North Junior High, is a cancer survivor. She understands what Tyler went through and how important it was to keep him involved in school.
“It's a life changing experience for sure, but it's great to come out on the other side. It's great to get up in the morning and look at yourself and say it's another day cancer free, and it's great to be there for someone else who has been through the same thing," Jonakin said.
After 200 days of rigorous treatments, Tyler is now officially discharged from the hospital and focusing on remission.
“Right now we've got our family back, we're waking up in our own beds and we're waking up with Tyler, and seeing his face in his own home just lights us all up," Jim said.
“It feels great to have my family around they have been there through everything since day one," Tyler said. "And it's just so great to finally be home with all of them. I can say here that every day out of the hospital is truly a blessing”."
Tyler and Ryan say they are looking forward to walking to school together again next year and say it will be the best year yet.
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