Brain cancer is the stuff of nightmares. But for the Dory family, one sentence turned that nightmare into a dream come true: “Kyle, your scans are all clear.”
In an instant, the terminal diagnosis Kyle had received six months ago was no longer his reality.
“At first I wondered if they looked at the wrong MRI scan,” says Kyle. “We were blindsided. We were shocked—speechless really. We were expecting bad news, but it was the opposite; we got great news!”
In January, the Dory family had received bad news—the worst news, really. The cancer they thought had been eradicated two years ago had returned and was pronounced terminal. Kyle was unable to report to his mission in New York as planned (and instead served a mini-mission for eight days), and the family began evaluating how to best spend the two years Kyle had been given to live. His doctors prescribed a final round of radiation to shrink the tumors and buy Kyle more time, but the prognosis was bleak.
Six months after the initial diagnoses, the family prepared for the fateful appointment that would assess how well the radiation had worked. The night before the appointment their stake president came over to offer counsel and a priesthood blessing. On his way to the Dory’s home, the stake president was prompted to have Kyle give his mother, Kris, a blessing.
“It was absolutely incredible. It was the first time I’d ever given a priesthood blessing, and we were all pretty nervous about what was going to happen that next day,” says Kyle.
One can only imagine how anxious his mother must have been to hear the fate of her son. Receiving a priesthood blessing under his hands, however, brought a peace that passes all understanding.
“You know that the blessings are from Heavenly Father, but the maturity and the things he said based on what I’d been feeling in my heart—the worries and concerns, not only for myself but for him—it was amazing,” says Kris. “It was a huge comfort and helped prepare me for Thursday. I had a peace and calm about whatever the Lord wanted to happen.”
No one expected what came next: An MRI showing no sign of disease. The doctor explained that the radiation had successfully killed existing tumors and had stunned any other cancer cells to the point that they became undetectable on the scan. This is the best-case scenario—and certainly a dream come true, especially for Kris who had been bracing herself for the worst.
“Throughout this whole thing, I really had to resolve to [accept] whatever the Lord has in store for him. In fact, at one point I finally had to just tell Heavenly Father that is was okay that He has my boy early. I had a resolve of that,” says Kris through tears.
Staying in tune spiritually was an important battle for Kris and her husband, Kirk. While Kyle was serving his eight-day mission, his parents used that time to wrap their brains around their situation and be ready emotionally to support Kyle because, as Kris said, “having an unhappy mom for the rest of his life is not fair to him.”
But is it even possible for a mother to feel peace in the face of losing her 19-year-old? Kris found her answer through her testimony of Jesus Christ and His plan.
“If I could share one thing that I have learned from this experience, it is never ever take the knowledge of the gospel for granted. When the storms of life come, grab a hold of the gospel for dear life and let it carry you through whatever you may be going through. There is not a better way. There is peace in Christ,” says Kris.
It is possible that her son’s cancer will one day return, but for now, Kris plans on living deliberately—a practice she has relied on throughout their journey.
“Since this diagnosis, I’ve really tried to enjoy each day to the fullest. I don’t know if it is just this year or because of our circumstances, but we’ve had the most beautiful sunsets. And I love sunsets; it’s one of my favorite things about what Heavenly Father has created on this earth. Just stopping and taking the time to enjoy the things Heavenly Father has given us has been key for me,” says Kris.
She has also found missionary work to be a way to help their family through this experience. When Kyle’s nurses questioned their optimism amidst so much pain, the family responded by testifying that regardless of the outcome, they know they are an eternal family. Kyle has shared his testimony at numerous devotionals, youth camps, and church meetings. And Kris is learning to open her mouth whenever possible.
“I’ve tried not to be scared to share the gospel through this experience. Kirk and I talked about how last time [Kyle battled cancer] we should have opened our mouths a little bit more, and we said this time we are doing it. I’ve tried to share the gospel through Kyle’s experience with whoever. I testify of the things I know to be true,” says Kris.
Now Kris gets to watch Kyle move forward with his life. While the risk of the cancer returning prevents him from returning to his mission, Kyle plans to attend a community college in the fall and then transfer to the University of Wyoming to study architectural engineering. And though life will move on, the Dory family (and thousands inspired by them) are forever changed.
“I have been able to look back and see my growth spiritually through this trial of cancer. I am gaining a deeper love of my Savior and a better relationship with my Heavenly Father as I have drawn closer to Them. What a blessing this is for me! I have truly been able to feel peace in the storms of life through Jesus Christ,” says Kris.
As for Kyle, he goes forward with a perspective on life most people don’t gain for years. While living with a terminal diagnosis, one of his goals, inspired by a Tim McGraw song, was to “love deeper and speak sweeter.” His mother testifies that he has become a “whole different person” by doing so. And he doesn’t plan to stop now. Kyle says, “I’m really going to try and live like I’m dying again. Even though I don’t have terminal brain cancer, I’m still going to live as if I do. In that song, it talks about speaking deeper and loving sweeter, and I’ve really tried to do that these past six months, and I just feel better about myself. I’ve become closer to God as I’ve lived more on the path. It has really motivated me to read my scriptures; to pray more often. This has all basically made me a better person.”