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The City Journals

Two Corner Canyon students place hope in Make-a-Wish

Apr 06, 2018 10:38AM ● By Julie Slama

Corner Canyon sophomore Tyler Easton will travel to South Africa for his Make-a-Wish request. (Tyler Easton/Corner Canyon High School)

When Corner Canyon sophomore Tyler Easton was led blindfolded to the free-throw line at half-time of the CCHS versus Timpview game in January, his shot swished.

“It felt pretty good; it was muscle memory,” he said, adding that he played basketball his freshman year, but was unable to play this year as tiredness from his cancer took its toll.

Easton wasn’t ready for what happened next. After being led to center court, his blindfold was removed and his family was on the sideline with a paper banner that read, “South Africa.”

“I learned then that my wish was granted to go to South Africa,” he said about his Make-a-Wish request he placed in the fall. “I wanted to do something crazy and travel to see new places. I’m hoping to go on a safari and shark diving in Capetown is one of the best places to do it. My whole family will come with me. It will be like a National Geographic expedition; I'm very pumped.” 

Easton’s travel plans aren’t set in stone, since much of it depends on his health and treatments. 

Five years ago, when Easton was in fifth grade at Willow Springs Elementary, he started getting headaches during physical education.

“My head was pounding. It felt like a gunshot exploded in the middle of my head,” he said.

For the next week, Easton visited his doctor’s office daily until his pediatrician diagnosed him with a golf ball–sized tumor in his adrenal gland. That was April 11, 2013. Within two weeks, Easton’s pheochromacytoma — a rare tumor that raises blood pressure — was immediately removed and was not cancerous, he said. 

Two years later, the tumors returned. This time, Easton, who was at Draper Park Middle School, had six tumors in his kidney and abdomen. He also learned that the doctors at Primary Children’s Hospital wouldn’t perform the surgery since only 10 percent of people affected with pheochromacytomas are children, who usually develop symptoms between the ages of 6 and 14. 

That began his trips — 12 times in the past two years, mostly with his mother — to National Institute of Health in Maryland. The tumors were removed in August 2015, with some being cancerous.

“My mom is a silent carrier. So is my sister,” he said.

Through routine blood work and scans, Easton learned last year that 25 tumors appeared and had spread to his liver, spine, lungs, kidneys, abdomen and lymph nodes.

Easton said that he took the news in stride.

“I keep a positive attitude. If I sulk, I’m going to be miserable, so I’ve learned to deal with it head on,” he said, adding that after an 11-hour surgery, it took him a couple days to improve. “I’m able to recover faster since I’m young. The biggest thing was how my family and friends would reach out to me, call me on FaceTime and if they were in the Maryland area, they’d come to visit.”

Currently, Easton, who added that now through so many treatments, his interest in pursuing a career in the medical field has heightened, said he has about “20-some tumors now” that measure a couple centimeters.

“I can’t remember how many, but they’re super small nodules. We’re trying injections to try to stop the growth. They said they’ve never tried it on a patient who has my cancer. I hope they work,” he said, knowing his health and treatments progress will determine whether he will go to South Africa. 

Junior Jacie Remund’s journey began last year. After weeks and weeks of feeling sick and having no energy, she was diagnosed with thyroid cancer.

“I had seen so many doctors and nobody knew what was wrong with me, I wasn’t freaked out that the ENT (ear-nose-throat) doctor had diagnosed it,” she said about her biopsy result. “I was happy that I knew what it was and that it could be treated.”

Remund said the only part that made her sad was that the diagnosis hit on her mom’s birthday, March 24.

She also learned that only a small percent of thyroid cancer cases occur in children and teenagers so she had to seek medical help from a doctor who would treat her. One month later, her thyroid with 12 lymph nodes were removed. 

“I take a thyroid replacement medication and it’s really hard on me,” she said. The side effects have been hot flashes, insomnia, weight loss and gain, lack of energy, shakiness, headaches and more. “It’s been hard since a lot of people don’t have any idea that I have cancer.”

Easton said that educating others about cancer is part of coping with it. 

“If you look at Jacie and me, you don’t know that we have cancer and that we’re dealing with it. We want people to know. I hear how some people say what they’re going through is so hard. I don’t make a judgment. For them, it probably is and I try to support them. For me, cancer sucks and it’s hard as well. I just try to keep a positive attitude.”

Remund said that she can’t be angry about it, so she also tries to joke about it and stay positive.

“I want people to know. It’s like a hidden illness and if they can learn about it and our treatments and side effects, they’d have a better understanding. And some people are able to make connections as they know others who have thyroid cancer. We’re dealing with stuff that adults deal with, but it is part of our path and for that, we’ll be better persons,” she said. 

Easton said that through his treatments, he has learned to be patient.

“The doctors don’t know what to do as only a couple kids across the world have my cancer. Every once in a while I may get sulky, but then I stop because it won’t do me any good,” he said.

Remund, who competed in cheer and gymnastics while she attended Oak Hollow Elementary and Draper Park Middle School, said, “I really can’t do sports anymore. School is always a priority so I try to keep up with my homework as I go to so many doctor appointments and have blood work done every week and a half.”

However, the 3.9 GPA student was able to take part at the recent Canyons School District high school job shadow day, where she shadowed general counsel Sarah Starkey for Larry H. Miller companies.

While chemotherapy won’t help Remund, she said that radioactive iodine or radiation may be a treatment. For now, they’re watching her cancer markers.

“It’s still hard because there are no answers why they keep fluctuating,” she said.

Remund also put in for a wish through Make-a-Wish — a shopping spree for clothes — that will keep her close by in case she needs additional treatments. 

“It would be hard for me to go out of the country with my numbers fluctuating, so I opted for something fun and something I wouldn’t have to worry about,” she said. “I’m so excited if I can get it. I haven’t had good news in so long and it would make me so happy.”