This is a brand new content series called Beards Behind the Brand! Our goal with this new series is to feature empowering stories from our community to encourage and inspire each other to be the best we can be.
It's all about doing better every single day, and these stories unite us in that mission. This week we're featuring Live Bearded customer and cancer survivor, Tyler Keene.
We've all had one... or two... or three...
The moment when in the blink of an eye, your life changes forever. And it's in these very moments when you have the choice to define it... or let them define you.
Tyler Keene's "moment" happened just seven months ago. Before we get to that, however, it's important for you to know Tyler's story before that fateful night... and why cancer never stood a chance.
"I was born and raised in Burien, Washington," Tyler said. "After I graduated high school I went out of state to play college football. I ended up in Plainfield, IL attending the University of St. Francis. I was majoring in Outdoor recreation and was suppose to graduate in May 2020. Throughout my four years in college I made the Dean's List twice and was academic all-conference twice for football. I was the punter for my college and was fortunate enough to be named all-conference my senior season."
In his spare time, Tyler loves doing anything that involves the outdoors: rock climbing, hiking, backpacking, rafting... anything. In fact, that's what he wants to do for the rest of his life. Once he graduates from college, his goal is to become a Game Warden or Park Ranger in hopes to be able to provide opportunities for future generations to enjoy everything and more than he's already experienced.
That dream, however, has been deferred... just for a little while.
After he finished playing college football in November of 2019, he was in phenomenal shape. Happy. Healthy. But fast-forward just a few months later to February of 2020.
"I began experiencing some back pain and discomfort that wouldn't go away," he said. "On February 19, 2020, I went to the emergency room where we soon started to learn that I might have a tumor. Four days later I was going in for unexpected surgery where I had a tumor removed."
It took a couple days in the hospital to recover before being able to go home, but over the next few weeks was when he learned that the cancer had spread to his lymph nodes and he would need an intense chemotherapy treatment to combat the cancer and prevent it from spreading to his lungs.
"I went from being in great shape to what felt like my death bed," Tyler remembers. "Going days where I wouldn't leave my bed. I lost 20 pounds. I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy."
Those were his toughest battles, but Tyler knew he was going to win the war.
He ended up going through three cycles of chemo (each cycle was three weeks long) which involved five-straight days of 8-10 hours of chemo at the beginning of each cycle.
But those incredibly difficult moments would set Tyler up for his greatest achievement: beating cancer.
"Ringing that bell was an incredible experience," Tyler said. "For those not aware, most cancer patients get to ring a bell on their final day of chemo as a celebration. About a week later, I received word that I was officially cured from stage 2 testicular cancer."
Tyler was fortunate enough to have a great support system from his family and friends. A Go Fund Me page was generously set up for his family. In fact, during his final cycle of chemo, T.J., one of Tyler's friends, reached out and said he wanted to do a fundraiser and give the profits to Tyler.
Tyler, however, would have a different idea...
"I felt that I had already been given so much support that I opted to donate the money to the Testicular Cancer Awareness Foundation," he said. "The fundraiser was brewing our own vanilla porter. We put together gift packs that included custom shirts, bottle openers, bracelets, etc. We ended up filling close to 90 orders and raised about $3,000 to donate."
The best piece of advice Tyler could give to anyone struggling is just to take things one day at a time. That better days are ahead.
"I knew that's about all I could do," he added. "Brace for impact and weather the storm that was coming... but I knew it couldn't last forever. One day at a time. There were moments where I felt defeated and wouldn't even pick up the phone when people would call. Anytime I needed to I would reach out to family and friends to talk with them even if it was just for a couple minutes."
Today, Tyler is healthy and on track to get his degree soon.
And there is one thing Tyler can't wait to get back after losing his hair from chemo: his beard!
"Being a part of The Brotherhood has helped me in a couple ways," he said. "The main thing was occasionally posting about my battle in the group. The outreach and support was unexpected - brothers praying for me, wishing me well, private messaging me for support. On those hard days where I struggled, sometimes that little extra support is what I needed."
Tyler is a live-for-the-moment kind of guy. He's all about having a good time and a sense of humor.
Something we could all use a little more of right now...
"Life is too short," he said. "We often take it way too seriously. Everyone needs to laugh and smile. Those are the moments I live for.
"I very much live in the present again... one day at a time."
At Live Bearded we believe Brotherhood goes beyond the beard. We believe it is our responsibility, as men, to do better every day, to learn from our mistakes, grow through our failures, and strive to be the best we can be.
Through sharing stories of the men in the Live Bearded Brotherhood, we're continually learning and growing from each other. If you are interested in being considered for a Beards Behind the Brand story, send us an email!