Tyson: the boy with 810 beads

Tyson Hollran

When Te Awamutu’s Tyson Hollran was diagnosed with leukaemia, the 10-year-old said, “don’t worry mum and dad, I’m going to smash it”.

And he did.

Awhi and Alex Hollran said their son’s attitude not only helped him to get through it, but also helped the family. He was never scared of his treatments, even though they made him feel sick.

Tyson’s journey began with what seemed to be a harmless backache. He thought he had hurt his back after jumping into his friend’s pool, but it never got any better. Then everything changed after his dad noticed that his gums had turned white.

He saw his doctor about his gums and on Wednesday, March 4, 2020. Tyson had a blood test, and within hours, he was told he needed to go to the hospital. The following Monday Tyson was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia, and he began chemotherapy that day.

“They said: do you want to go into a different room?” recalled Alex. “I said no, I want him to hear. I didn’t want to hide anything from him.

“He had a warrior’s attitude right from the start.”

Awhi, Tyson and Alex Hollran.

Over the following months, Tyson received a wealth of support from his friends and whanau. Family friends came up one day with a gift for Tyson, which turned out to be a new PlayStation 4. Awhi said that being able to play games in the hospital kept his mind off why he was there.

Tyson’s touch coach, Codie Taute, posted about his journey on her Instagram, which led to dozens from the touch community sending Tyson messages and get-well packages. Taute even gave Tyson a shout out on live TV.

Liam Walters is Tyson’s best friend. The pair went to Glenview Primary together and played in opposing rugby teams.

“He was always there for me, most times that I went to the hospital he would visit, or video call me,” Tyson said.

Jill Shaw, then acting principal of Te Awamutu Intermediate supported Tyson as well.

“At the school, they weren’t allowed to wear hats inside, but the principal said in front of everyone that there was one kid who could, and that was Tyson,” Awhi said.

The Child Cancer Foundation has a Beads of Courage programme, and Tyson has 810 beads. Each one represents a step of his journey, wherever that be a blood test, hospital stay, chemotherapy, or an MRI scan.

On July 21, 2020, Tyson’s doctor called.

Tyson cried. His family cried. His mum locked herself in a closet, and then cried.

Jill Shaw

They were told that he was now in remission.

Tyson’s last treatment is scheduled for July this year. Afterwards, he’ll be monitored for five more years, with check-ups every six months.

Tyson is now 12 and is just one vaccine dose away from returning to Te Awamutu Intermediate. He is looking forward to seeing his friends again, playing basketball and touch.

Tyson’s favourite subject at school is P.E. When asked about what he wanted to do later in life, he said “I want to be a builder and maybe buy mum and dad a house, or a campervan because they said they wanted to travel.”

Tyson has seven siblings. And although his journey wasn’t pleasant, he appreciates that it made them closer as a family. Particularly his relationship with his sister, Pacey.

Awhi said that one of the worst parts of their journey was seeing all the other kids that were going through it as well. They want others to know that there are many families who are struggling with similar illnesses.

They say the best thing is to stick together and to talk to each other. They also want parents to know that it isn’t normal for kids of Tyson’s age to have sore backs.

“If your kid has a sore back, go and get it checked out.”

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