Tyler Wirth of Midland is remembered by his father and those who knew him best as a loving and giving person who thought of others before himself â€” even while he was going through a 10-month battle with cancer that ultimately took his life.
“It was as if his strength and courage grew faster than his cancer,” Mike Wirth, speaking on behalf of his family, said of his younger son, who died at the age of 14 on July 18 from diffuse midline glioma (DMG), a cancer of the brain and spinal cord.
“The more bad news (he got) and painful procedures (he endured), the wiser and more courageous he became. It almost felt like the worse (the) news and the more his cancer grew, the more faith and the more strength he had,” Mike continued.
And this remarkable resilience was an inspiration to many people in the community who knew Tyler and countless others who followed his battle on the #TylerStrong Facebook page and through other social media.
“(When) I would post (messages about Tyler’s positive attitude) on Facebook, it made (people) feel like their problems weren’t as significant (as they thought),” Mike said. “It’s kind of like, ‘If a 14-year old kid can be this positive and have a deadly disease, then maybe things aren’t so bad for me.'”
Tyler played football and baseball and loved everything about the outdoors.
“Ever since Tyler was little, he enjoyed everything outdoors â€” hunting, fishing, just being in the outdoors, going camping with my Mom and Dad at Cadillac state campground,” Mike said.
Tyler was a big fan of the Cedar Point amusement park in Ohio and also enjoyed the family pets: a cat named Smokey, a German Shepherd named Ruger and a beagle named Matilda.
Tyler attended Adams Elementary School and Northeast Middle School, where he was in the eighth grade this past school year.
“He really, really liked going to school at Northeast. That’s one of the things he missed the most when we were (at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital),” Mike said of a hospital where Tyler and his family spent a lot of time during his battle with cancer.
Mike described Tyler as someone who could relate to anyone and who didn’t hesitate to come to the defense of those who seemed to need it.
“He was the type of kid that would talk to anyone. He was a really good friend to a lot of of kids,” Mike said. “He was always the type of kid who would stick up for other kids, too. He was a real sweetheart that way.”
And even after losing his ability to walk and going through extensive treatments over the past year, Tyler was more concerned about others than about himself.
“Tyler always thought of others before he thought of himself,” Mike said. “One of the things Tyler really wanted was a cure for (cancer), because he cared so much about other people that he didn’t want other families or kids to have to deal with this.”
And while many people donated money to help Tyler buy things that he might like for himself during his treatments, Mike said that Tyler, again, thought of other young cancer patients instead.
“He made the comment that there’s really nothing that he wants (for himself), but he really wants to help other kids going through the same thing, especially the kids that are alone that don’t have parents (staying with them),” Mike explained.
Tyler was also concerned for the welfare of his parents, Mike and Jennifer, and his older brother, Brady, once he would no longer be with them.
“He wanted to make sure that we were going to be OK,” Mike said.
But concerning himself and his own future, Tyler had what his father described as “a sense of calm.”
“He told me one day, right before he was placed on hospice (care), that when you’re dealing with something like this (disease), the only way to move on and be happy is to learn to accept it,” Mike said. “He said, ‘Unless I accept what’s happening, I can’t go on one more day and be happy.'”
After seeing Tyler go through the ordeal of cancer, Mike wants, as much as anything, to see more money go to support research of pediatric cancer.
According to the National Pediatric Cancer Foundation, “only 4% of federal government cancer research funding goes to study pediatric cancer.”
“Any parent would rather see funding go to pediatric cancer research than adult cancer research,” Mike said.
Within a few days after Tyler’s death, one of his classmates did a 24-hour donation drive in Tyler’s honor and collected a large supply of toys and gifts and delivered them to the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital with her mother.
For anyone who still would like to make a contribution in Tyler’s honor, Mike suggests contributions to Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, 3333 Burnet Ave., Cincinnati, Ohio 45229, with a designation for DIPG/DMG research in memory of Tyler Wirth.
“They call it a ‘home-run cure,'” Mike said of a potential cure for diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (DIPG), a cancer similar to DMG, which afflicted Tyler. “If they can cure something like DIPG, which has basically a zero percent survival rate, then they should be able to cure other high-grade brain tumors like DMG.”
When asked to summarize the legacy that Tyler leaves, Mike summed it up with these words:
“Hope, courage, faith, family and love.”