Axel Boyer is used to taking big hits as a member of BYU’s hockey team. But the most damaging hit he ever took was an emotional one that came far from the ice.
Axel’s wife, Gabby Boyer, was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) nearly three years ago. The family is still learning to cope with disease.
Gabby and Axel met while both serving LDS missions in the West Indies. Gabby arrived about three months before Axel left, but her stay was a short one.
She began having facial pains that concerned her. When she got back to the U.S., she discovered she had MS.
MS is an autoimmune disease that attacks the protective coverings of nerves and disrupts the flow of information from the brain to the rest of the body. The cause of MS is still unknown.
Axel and Gabby met up again while attending BYU and started dating. After six months, they decided to get married. Unfortunately, they didn’t experience the ‘honeymoon stage’ of marriage like most couples.
Instead, Gabby’s MS was wreaking havoc. She would often call Axel and ask him to come home early from hockey trips because she needed him home.
Things became even more difficult during Axel’s sophomore year. He was called to serve in an LDS bishopric and was also trying to get into the Marriott School when they discovered Gabby was pregnant.
Axel decided to put hockey on hold for the rest of his sophomore year.
“After a really lengthy process I decided to walk away for the year and focus on all the other things,” Axel said.
Axel said he never imagined he would play for BYU hockey again. However, a few weeks before his junior year started, the idea of joining the team again came to his mind.
For Axel, it wasn’t so much about hockey as it was about the team’s motto and goal: “we represent the Lord and we serve.”
After being released from the bishopric, he felt one way he could represent and serve others was through hockey. Axel said he didn’t want to lose out on that opportunity.
“I thought it was a great medium to go out and represent our university, represent the Lord in a way and serve people, both on the team and on the outside,” Axel said.
Axel and Gabby have been able to grow stronger as a couple through their journey with MS.
BYU hockey head coach Ed Gantt said the challenges the two have faced dealing with MS have helped them become a more loving and committed couple.
“Their challenges have forced them to commit wholeheartedly to one another, to make sacrifices, and to be strong for one another,” Gantt said. “Rather than being focused only on themselves.”
For a long time Axel and Gabby were concerned that her MS would worsen. But a sigh of relief came when the doctors said her medication would prevent any further damage.
Then a miracle happened. Gabby’s MS disappeared she progressed further into her pregnancy with their son, Crosby.
“We got pregnant with Crosby and her symptoms went away,” Axel said. “It was a miracle that for nine months her symptoms were gone.”
But the sigh of relief was a relatively short-lived one. About eight weeks after Crosby was born, Gabby’s symptoms returned.
Despite their up-hill battle with the disease, the couple says they aren’t worried. They’re relying on their faith.
“(LDS Church leaders) talk about how you’ll be strengthened and how things will work out when you have children,” Axel said. “I really feel like our situation is a living testimony. Everything will work out. I don’t know how, but it will.”
There are times when Gabby gets frustrated. She said she doesn’t understand what’s happening or why she was put in these unfortunate situations, but she knows she’s getting stronger.
“I know that Heavenly Father loves me and that he’s not going to just give me something that I don’t need,” Gabby said. “He’s helping me to learn.”
Axel and Gabby focus on happiness. They might not be able to change their circumstances, but they can focus on the positives. No matter what they’re going through, they are always happy at the end of the day.
“We don’t feel those (bad) things weigh us down,” Axel said. “We just feel good going about each day. We feel we’re recognized by the Lord. We’re blessed and we’re really hopeful for the future.”