"Usually I'm a hypochondriac, but he had just gone to the gym with his older brother," Tammy Collins tells Patch. "I figured his muscle was sore."
Weeks later, after Tylor complained again, Collins made an appointment at the pediatrician, who then sent him for an X-ray of his arm.
"On our way home we stopped for a couple of slices of pizza," Collins remembers. "Before we were even finished, the pediatrician called and said go back to the hospital, get a CD of the X-ray and go to Robert Wood Johnson in New Brunswick."
The diagnosis was something no mom ever expects: cancer. More specifically, Tylor's was Ewing's sarcoma, a rare form that presents in the bones and soft tissue, most frequently during adolescence.
"My world changed in that second," says Collins. "I was mad at everyone. In the beginning it was denial – this is not happening, this doesn’t happen to us, we’re good people. The doctor told us we had to tell Tylor, that he was old enough to understand. He looked at me and asked, 'Am I going to die?' That was probably the hardest question I’ve ever had to answer in my life.'"
"No," Collins told her son.
"From that day forward we began to fight and we put ourselves in survival mode," she says. "It’s been hell, that’s the only way that I can describe it."
Within a week of being diagnosed, Tylor started chemotherapy. It's been three months and six cycles so far, and Collins says he's handling it well.
On Sept. 26, Tylor had surgery to remove the tumor in his arm, which involved taking out seven inches of his humerus, replacing the ball in his rotator cuff and putting him in a brace that holds his arm up and out for up to 12 weeks while he heals.
"He can't shower, he's having a hard time sleeping," says Collins. "And he hasn't been in school since last May."
Though the tumor is gone, Tylor's fight continues as doctors monitor to see whether the cancer has spread. He'll begin another 12 rounds of chemo starting next week.
"So we wait," says Collins. "That’s my husband famous motto now – hurry up, and wait."
What's kept the family going, Collins says, is the outpouring of support from friends, family, neighbors in Clark and a certain "extended-family" – that being the regulars at the White Diamond, the Clark landmark the Collins family has owned for more than 50 years.
"The support that has come out of this town and out of that business is amazing," says Collins. "The people have just been amazing."
Also rallying around the family is the Clark PBA, which has organized a golf outing on Monday (rain date, Oct. 28) at Shackamaxon Golf Club in Scotch Plains. The event will feature a barbecue, raffles, awards and more. Find out more details, here.
"Cancer affects everyone and this is a 15-year-old kid that has Ewing's sarcoma cancer and a family that’s such a big part of this community," said event organizer and Clark PBA member Marty Venezio. "It was a natural for the police department to step up and help them."
If you can't attend the golf outing but would like to donate, write a check to the Clark PBA (make sure to mention Tylor Collins in the note) and mail to the Clark PBA, P.O. Box 950, Clark, NJ 07066. One-hundred percent of proceeds from the outing and all donations received will go toward the Collins family to help pay for Tylor's medical bills.
For right now, Tammy Collins says Tylor is doing well and has a positive attitude about his fight.
"Tylor's an all-American kind of boy," says Collins. "He loves hot rods and Harleys and dirt bikes. He said to me, 'I’m going to live my life no matter what.'"
Collins says her older son, Brandon, recently decided to get a tattoo for his brother.
"At first we weren't too happy about it, but he's 18, so there wasn't much we could do," she laughs. "When he came home, the tattoo said 'Never Give Up.' Later, we learned that's the Ewing's sarcoma motto."
And it's become the Collins family's motto, too.
"One of the things I want to tell other parents is, don't ignore the pain," says Collins. "I never realized how many families and kids are going through cancer until we were. When you walk into the clinic for treatment, it's sickening how many children are there. If your child comes to you and tells you something is hurting them, please, get it checked."