Tyler Butler-Figueroa was just 4 years old when the dark cloud of cancer began overshadowing his life.
His mom Kisua says she just knew something was wrong by looking at him. And she was right — a trip to the hospital confirmed the little boy had leukemia. The North Carolina native’s confidence withered away as he underwent multiple rounds of chemotherapy and lost his hair.
Unfortunately, during a time when Tyler needed people in his corner the most, his classmates were the opposite of supportive; they bullied him for it.
“I was really sad and embarrassed … to go to school,” he said. “They used to make fun of me and laugh at me because I was different. They would spread rumors to say that my cancer was contagious and they all wanted to stay away from me.”
Things continued this way until Tyler was 7. That’s when one piece of paper turned his life around. One day, the little boy noticed a flier posted at his school offering free violin lessons. He begged his mom to let him take the class, and Kisua says she’ll be forever grateful she said yes. After that, she says, “I got my son back.”
“I just didn’t want to be the kid with cancer,” Tyler said. “So now I’m the kid who plays the violin.”
Since then, the now 11-year-old hasn’t just become an excellent violinist. He’s found a lifelong passion and an outlet to help him “forget about all the bad stuff.” Oh, and he’s been in remission for nearly four years. There was no better way to celebrate all he’s overcome than to share his story — and triumph — on “America’s Got Talent.”
As he stood on stage and opened up about the most difficult time in his life, Tyler was emotional, yet remarkably self-assured. It became very clear he’s come a long way when he poured his heart and soul into an energetic rendition of Kelly Clarkson’s “Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You).”
Tyler’s energy was infectious as he simultaneously played and danced across the stage, bringing the audience and judges to their feet. Not a single person there was unaffected. After his performance, judge Julianne Hough commended him for taking his most painful experience and “turning it around and finding something that brings you joy.”
“You are an extraordinary young man. We hear too many stories about people being bullied. But I can tell you one thing, most people are bullied because they are better than the people who bully them,” Simon Cowell added. “And I would like to say something on your behalf to the bullies.”
Then, wearing the biggest grin, Cowell hit his Golden Buzzer!
The sweet kid’s face said it all, though he made sure to add he felt incredibly proud of himself. He is victorious, and so deserving of this accomplishment! From surviving cancer to snagging a Golden Buzzer, this boy continues to be such an inspiration.
Keep your Kleenex handy as you watch Tyler’s moving audition and his heartwarming reaction to moving up in the competition. Share to show your support for this strong, talented boy!
Share your story & inspire the world.
If you have an uplifting story we would love to hear about it! Share it with us here.