Ty Sparks

Ty Sparks

April 5, 1995 – September 10, 2012

  • Hometown: Calgary, Alberta
  • Year of Diagnosis: January 19, 2009
  • Diagnosis: Acute Myloid Leukemia (AML)

I cannot explain why this vibrant, young man spent the majority of his teenage years in the confines of a hospital room.  I cannot understand why he was chosen to suffer – day after day. Month after month and year after year…

But I trust God had a plan and a purpose for every detail of his life.

Many of us go through life not knowing what our plan or purpose is. Some search and some just don’t really care. Ty asked me once – “mummy, what could God’s purpose possibly be in all of this?” At that time I really did not have an answer. I did assure him that one day it would be revealed.  Today, I believe I do know Ty’s purpose here on earth. Ty was a teacher. Ty constantly taught the team of doctors at The Alberta Children’s Hospital along with Dr’s around the world. Ty taught everyone who knew him.  Even those he never met. Ty taught through courage. He taught through bravery. He taught through strength. He taught through his beautiful smile.  He taught through his humor. He taught through his gentle caring nature. He taught through his desire to learn. He taught through his determination. He taught medical  professionals to think outside the box. To question the possibility of something more than only science. It was told to me by one of those medical professionals; Ty was a miracle several times over. Based on scientific data, Ty should have gone to Heaven on several occasions over the almost 4 years.  Ty’s purpose was not only to teach today but to continue to teach the medical professionals into the future. Ty’s complicated medical problems have been written into studies and papers. In the years to come, doctors will be looking at these studies trying to find answers. Answers that will stop another patients suffering. What about the other lessons Ty taught. The lessons he taught his family. His peers. His teachers. Strangers.

Ty shared a HOPE for two things;  First – The gold ribbon be as readily recognized as the pink; Second –  No child suffer the way he did. The few opportunities he had to raise awareness he embraced with passion. Speaking at a bone marrow drive he left the audience with the challenge; “If I do this and little kids have to do it, you can do it!”

We don’t know why God allows cancer.  We especially don’t understand why He allows kids to get cancer.  However we believe in His promises, we trust He does the best for all His children whom He loves dearly.   We live with HOPE, until we are reunited with our beautiful boy… in Heaven.

It was simply a sore throat… swollen glands…  possibly mono.  How on earth did, after three visits to the walk in clinic over Christmas break and two visits to Alberta Children’s Hospital, a sore throat become cancer.  How was it our vibrant, energetic, active, healthy, 13 year old boy’s blood stream could be 90% filled with cancer cells.  January 19, 2009 @ 1:47pm our childhood cancer journey began.  That same evening at 8:59pm Ty was admitted.  Our family hospital separation began.  Ty’s little sister (Tanaya) and his stepdad at home, Ty and I moved into the hospital.  From the beginning medical staff warned us it would be a long, difficult journey.  Ty underwent the protocol for AML where the high dose chemo took him to the brink of death 5 times over the next 6 months.  The intensity of the chemo destroyed the majority of cells in his bone marrow causing an ongoing threat of life threatening infections thus keeping him mostly in isolation with few days out of the hospital.  The little schooling he could manage was attended in his hospital room. Friends were estranged.  July 31, 2009 he was discharged – cancer free.  June 4, 2010 after feeling ill, a visit to the oncology unit confirmed our worst fear.  The cancer had returned, posing a bigger threat. Once again remission would have to be achieved.  Because the intense chemo did not work, a bone marrow transplant was the only option.  Finding a donor would be difficult, because Ty was of mixed race (dad black – mom white).  The chances of finding a 100% match were less than 5%.  By God’s Grace, although not perfect, matches were found.  A dual cord blood transplant was received September 17, 2010.  The transplant was successful!  He had been admitted June 10 and was discharged for Christmas.  Just after, everything that could go wrong seemed to.  He had infection after infection both bacterial and viral.  Extremely high fevers often, making hospital stays long and frequent.  In March 2011 Chronic GVHD (graft vs host disease) began attacking; skin, eyes, mouth and lungs.  Outbreaks of the GVHD produced painful deep crevasses in his hands and feet.  Two life threatening visits to the ICU, in June & July 2012, resulted in unanswered testing and “perplexed” Dr.’s.  During the third visit to the intensive care unit, September 10, 2012 at 4:18 am, Jesus took Ty home.  Ty did not have cancer. Seven days later, September 17, would have marked two years cancer free.  After that date the chance of relapse would have been next to none.

Our Featured Ambassador

This is Josh Nelson – a childhood cancer survivor. He knows about facing all the challenges of childhood cancer:

“I know first-hand how it feels to be a prisoner in the hospital and endure the surgeries and the endless needles and treatments. I know how it feels to lose my hair, throw up regularly and watch other kids around me earn their wings. I lost a part of my childhood that I will never get back. I know how it feels to look different and to be different. That’s something that I wouldn’t wish for any other kid to go through, and that is why I do what I do.”

Read more about Josh’s journey »

Event Websites


Our Ambassadors

See all of our Ambassadors