‘Cancer can affect anybody’: Utah couple processes pancreatic cancer diagnosis

Feb 22, 2024, 5:41 PM | Updated: Feb 23, 2024, 10:08 am

SARATOGA SPRINGS — For Chris and Aimee Tyler, 2023 started as a good year.

“We had just booked our first major family vacation,” Chris Tyler said. “Things were going great.

But then, their lives took a major turn.

“I started having some sporadic kind of pains in my abdomen area,” he said

At first, Chris Tyler shook it off as muscle cramps. But the pain only got worse.

“We went to the ER, and the CT scan came back, and I had a mass on my pancreas,” he said.

Chris and Aimee at their home, talking about their experience.

Chris and Aimee at their home, talking about their experience. (KSL TV)

In November, Chris Tyler was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, which, when diagnosed, carries a life expectancy of about three years.

“It’s very, very unusual and very humbling at the same time just to, you know, to realize how serious this is,” he said.

Chris Tyler says he is an active 46-year-old, lives a healthy lifestyle and has no family history of pancreatic issues, so his doctors don’t know what caused it.

“I don’t know how long I have with him. And it’s terrifying,” said his wife, Aimee Tyler.

The Tyler family. (Courtesy: The Tyler Family)

“Cancer can come out of nowhere. The truth is that cancer can affect anybody,” said Dr. Mark Lewis, director of Gastrointestinal Oncology at Intermountain Health. “There are other cancers that are far more common, but pancreas cancer is such a threat because it is so deadly.”

Lewis said though more research is being done, risk factors for pancreatic cancer include genetics and poor lifestyle choices. Things like heavy drinking and high-fat diets can put a lot of stress on your pancreas.

He said some warning signs of pancreatic cancer may be unexplained weight loss, jaundice, or changes in stool.

“This is a systemic illness, meaning one that almost always requires chemotherapy,” he said. “But it’s also a disease that’s only cured in the operating room.”

Chris Tyler does chemotherapy every two weeks and said the side effects have been taking a toll.

“It’s a hard way to live,” he said. “My maximum now for being able to kind of go out and enjoy things is a couple of hours, and then I’m either completely wiped out, or cancer pains start kicking in.”

Chris undergoing chemotherapy treatment at the hospital.

Chris undergoing chemotherapy treatment at the hospital. (Courtesy: Chris Tyler)

The goal of his chemo is to shrink his cancer enough to be able to undergo surgery.

Lewis, a pancreatic cancer survivor himself, said he’s optimistic that more progress will be made in terms of treating this kind of cancer – including earlier detection.

“I think there’s very legitimate hope, more than there’s ever been before,” Lewis said.

It’s that hope that the couple clings to that keeps them going.

“I can’t live without him,” Aimee Tyler said. “He’s my everything.”

“I’m fighting for every person in my family,” Chris Tyler added. “My wife, my kids, my parents, my in-laws. I just have such a great support structure. But you know, that makes it all worth it.”

Doctors recommend that you stay up to date with your general health screenings and know your hereditary risk. The Tyler family has a GoFundMe* to help pay for Chris’ medical expenses.

*KSL TV does not assure that the money deposited to the account will be applied for the benefit of the persons named as beneficiaries. If you are considering a deposit to the account, you should consult your own advisors and otherwise proceed at your own risk.

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‘Cancer can affect anybody’: Utah couple processes pancreatic cancer diagnosis