Tyler Campbell Tells His Superhero Story
Tyler Campbell, college football player turned MS advocate, was gracious in allowing us to interview him for 2022's Multiple Sclerosis Awareness Month! Tyler's energy and positivity are quite contagious, to say the least. We had a blast speaking with him about MS advocacy and life in general, and are honored to convey his outlook and part of his story to the community! Read about his powerful and insightful perspective below.
A candid conversation with Tyler Campbell
Q: Our theme for MS Awareness month this year is "The Many Superheros of MS." Who has been a superhero for you throughout your life?
A: For me, it's been my wife. I talk about this in my book...My roommate Matt knew, of course, he was there when my symptoms presented themself in college. Only Matt and Shana knew – my own coaches didn't know. She's been there from the very beginning. She used to sit at my feet in my hospital bed. My mom had also made it from Texas to be with me, and Mary from our foundation was there helping me with insurance (which was just nuts).
It means so much for me to have that support system. Even if it's an army of one. Given the pandemic, it's been harder for people to reach and get support. That's why I speak passionately about Shana being my superhero in this case. She really has been that army of one for me and has remained a constant. We've been married for 10 years, have had 3 children, and her role has been there, walking alongside. She's definitely my Incredible Hulk, my Ironman, my Wolverine, my Superman, my Batman, all in one.
Q: You have been an inspiration, a superhero, to so many people living with MS. What advice do you have for those who have recently received a diagnosis or are struggling through a difficult time?
A: For me, it's always give yourself grace. You weren't a bad person, you didn't do something wrong to somebody. One of the biggest things is, we always look inward and say 'What did I do?' I don't want people to say 'I'm the problem, it's my fault.' It's hard enough of a weight to carry. I tell people you were really chosen because of how incredibly strong you are. I really believe you don't know how strong you are until you're put in situations and circumstances that cause you to be made weak.
When we're weakened by what has happened to us with MS, we don't even realize it, but then we have to start navigating how our life is going to go – things change. And miraculously, I began to be inspired by the MS community, how many people went on to do such amazing things. I tell people, your story...it matters. What you feel...it matters. Because someone else is hurting the same way and they need to know how you're handling it. For someone to make it up to the restroom to brush their teeth, when it's hard to move your fingers to feel anything or hard to walk, yet you're still getting dressed in the morning...do you know how amazing that is? How incredibly powerful that is? That is amazing given what we have. Where so many people who you don't know are in awe of you, because they know if they had what you have, they wouldn't know what in the world to do. Give yourself grace.
Q: You seem to be a very motivated and positive person. Do you have personal and professional goals you’re working on this year?
A: Always goals. And understand that if you fall short, it's okay. The same way we walk with MS, if things don't go alright today, that's okay. I've learned to live by that motto instead of getting so down with myself about my handwriting not coming back or things of that nature that we battle with MS – it can be heartbreaking at times.
For me, I see a therapist every Sunday at 3 pm. That keeps me very whole, very focused, and loving myself. And being proud of who I am with MS. The people we love try so hard to relate, and they just can't. So we need that outlet, that person. After 14 years, I still continue to reach to build myself, to keep myself lifted. So I want everyone to know, I fight it every day just like everybody else. I fight for my happiness. For me, every day I want to be a better husband. And to be a better father. My goals are very very simple, and for me, it's always family first. If you take care of yourself mentally, then you take care of your family, because you can't love others until you love yourself.
And so it's really just using what I have and being my total and authentic self and not being judgemental, ridiculing, fearful, or worried about what somebody may think. If I'm talking about my erectile dysfunction and it bothers people, I'm not embarrassed by that. I find that the more you can be yourself, the more it helps other people. So to help be myself, I had to find a therapist.
Q: Finding a therapist can be daunting. Do you have any tips or words of wisdom when it comes to taking the next steps and finding someone to talk to?
A: Fear, anxiety, nervousness, highly emotional, sensitive – those are words for me as to why I would not want to go see someone. Words that traveled through my head for years. I say those things are so incredibly normal, truthful, and okay. You're going to navigate through some tough situations, and you're going to find the majority have more to do with things outside of MS. We know that stress contributes heavily to us being susceptible to relapses. You need to free yourself up a little bit to make life not so hard, to kind of unload the backpack of stuff we've been carrying our whole lives before MS even came a-knocking.
You might be nervous to see them for the first few sessions and even the first few months. The leap to see someone is the hardest step to take, because who is going to catch you? You don't know. We have been broken so our pieces can feed the masses. So in the midst of your brokenness, if you go through the process of therapy to reclaim yourself with your MS journey, your brokenness will be used to feed the masses. People need to know how you handle what you handle. And your story will help people more than you can even fathom. My mentor told me that, and it changed my life.
Q: If you could take one of your symptoms and turn it into a superpower, what would it be?
A: For me, oh my gosh, so it's gonna be weird...I come from a very physical sport (football), so for me the inability to not feel. Because I've gone through the situations with paralysis where you're left with not being able to feel anything. So if I couldn't feel anything, and I had my functioning, I would have been like the second coming of Jim Brown. I would feel more empowered. Yeah coach, I'll go run through that brick wall for you! If I had that in sports, I might have been a UFC champ or a boxer. Ain't no telling! That's why the Incredible Hulk is my favorite superhero.
Q: Tell us about your new social media campaign. How is it helping to strengthen your MS advocacy?
A: It's just looking at one's self. I remember those feelings I had when I was going through Doctor Google (don't go through Doctor Google) and trying to learn about MS, and I never saw anyone's face that looked like mine. It made me feel like there must be something really wrong with me. I couldn't find many statistics on Black males, and then I learned that MS is so much more progressive in Black males. Hearing things of that nature and reflecting back to how I felt in 2007, I said, 'We have to do better.'
So thankfully, Pro Player Foundation has the heartbeat to get something done. We all have to contribute, so let's just do it. How can it flow and be quick?
- Educate – We needed more education in the Black and Latino communities.
- Elevate – We live by slogans in my community of 'Lift as you climb' and 'Each one teach one, and each one reach one'. These are sayings of so many voices who've come before us, so now we're elevating each other.
- Collaborate – We want to bring unity, community, and wholeness.
And that's how it was born. All the information is there at proplayerfoundation.org. It's not only just about doing something for us to be a pillar within the Black and Latino community, but also to hopefully encourage others to do something as well. We need information and insight. And anything new you can bring to the table is powerful because it's from your perspective.
We need to be more a part of the education process, which is far more important in those communities. We need to be giving the right information and breaking down barriers between doctors and patients, and explaining how not all doctors are evil. We need to be talking about how clinical trials are important and bringing resources forward from trustworthy powers that be in our system.
I'm somebody who went through a clinical trial, and it's so important for me to be open about that. It helps make sure our medications are meeting different ethnicities. We're trying to break down the barriers built by stories that are in our communities, where our people have been abused and hurt. I want to help people understand we're trying to progressively move forward. If I can use my life as something as a testament to that, I will try to. It's about passing the torch and encouraging others to do it bigger and better. Make it your own!
You can also catch Tyler every Saturday at 1 pm EST on 104.9 FM The Horn!
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