As thousands of San Luis Obispo County residents try to catch a glimpse of the Tour of California on Thursday, one young San Luis Obispo resident will receive a special up-close look at the action.
Thirteen-year-old Tyler Borges, who has coped with more than two years of treatments and hospital visits to fight an aggressive type of cancer, will get to follow the riders in a chase car as the professional cycling race makes its way from Santa Barbara to Avila Beach.
The Borges family was recently surprised with the idea after county Supervisor Adam Hill learned of the opportunity and called Jack’s Helping Hand for a recommendation. The local nonprofit organization, which helps children with special needs, suggested Tyler.
“I was very excited and hyper,” Tyler said when asked about his reaction to the offer. “I can’t wait to see the bicycles going as fast as they can.”
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He’s since researched the bike race and learned about the riders and the course.
His mother, Karen Borges, also will ride in the chase car, and then they’ll meet her husband, Tim, and younger son, Connor, 11, in Avila Beach.
Hill will pick up the tab for the family’s dinner at Gardens of Avila restaurant, and they’ll stay at Sycamore Mineral Springs Resort courtesy of hotelier John King. Assemblyman Katcho Achadjian also donated a $50 gas card to help Karen and Tyler Borges get to Santa Barbara.
“This is so sweet,” Karen Borges said. “How do you say thank you enough? We’re just so grateful.”
Tyler was diagnosed on his last day of third grade in June 2009 with neuroblastoma, an aggressive form of cancer that’s most common in children 5 years old and younger. Tyler was featured in a Tribune story in 2010, when he appeared on a Nickelodeon show about children living with cancer.
Tyler underwent surgery in New York, five rounds of chemotherapy, a stem cell transplant and radiation. He has also battled numerous infections and is now dealing with numerous side effects, including severe hearing loss in his right ear, with moderate hearing loss to the left.
Jack’s Helping Hand has supported the family over the years, Karen Borges said, most recently purchasing Tyler’s hearing aids, since the family’s insurance didn’t cover them.
Now, his mother said, Tyler has no evidence of the disease, though doctors don’t call it remission.
“It’s such an aggressive type of cancer that it comes back in more than 50 percent of cases,” she explained.
Despite all this, Tyler remains positive and upbeat. He is now in seventh grade at Laguna Middle School, and has started spending time at the A-Town skate park in Atascadero, practicing tricks on a freestyle scooter.
“It’s so great because he’s never been that active before,” Karen Borges said Wednesday. “He is beyond excited for tomorrow.”