Never doubt what small can do
Photo (from left): Dominic, Mason and Emily
All year long, six-year-old Mason had been excited about joining soccer, his first time playing an organized sport. But in January 2022, when Mason came home from soccer and said he hated it because he was too tired to play, his mom Candice had an inkling that something wasn’t right.
Mason continued to feel unusually fatigued, unable to even bring his backpack upstairs after school. He also complained about stomach pains, so Candice booked an appointment with their family doctor for peace of mind. Candice was taken aback when their doctor suggested Mason should get checked out at the hospital, but it was there that a large mass was discovered in his abdomen. He was diagnosed with stage four Wilms Cancer, a rare kidney cancer also known as nephroblastoma.
One doctor’s appointment had changed everything.
Mason was taken to BC Children’s Hospital, where he underwent surgery to remove the mass. Over the next nine months, Mason embarked on a treatment plan that required him to spend more time in the hospital than at home.
A second home in the hospital
Mason’s first extended stay lasted about a month and a half, during which the hospital staff discovered that the cancer wasn’t responding well to chemotherapy—the tumour was still growing rapidly, despite the treatment. They had to pause chemotherapy to do a lung biopsy, which took a couple of weeks, and Candice’s anxiety level spiked. “I had a bit of a mental breakdown,” she said. “If the tumour was growing this fast on chemo, then how fast would it be growing without chemo?”
Thanks to the tireless efforts of the hospital staff, including Child Life specialists, Mason actually enjoyed his time at the hospital. “There was a time when his counts weren’t high enough, so he got sent home and was really upset,” Candice recalled with a smile.
Candice and Mason spent a lot of time with Heather, a Child Life specialist, seeing her almost every week. Heather not only found ways to keep Mason entertained and happy, she also chatted with Candice for hours and provided the encouragement Mason’s mom needed as she supported Mason through his treatment journey. These small moments of check-ins and conversation made all the difference.
Two birthdays in one year
One of the side effects of chemotherapy and radiation treatment is a drastically lower white blood cell count, and for Mason this led to getting a fungal infection. While there was no discomfort or pain, the infection had spread into his spleen, liver, lungs and brain.
Being in treatment for his fungal infection had one upside: Mason was able to celebrate his birthday at the end of November with hospital teams that had become family. In fact, due to the timing, Mason got to celebrate his birthday twice. “They gave him a ‘fake’ birthday during his last chemo treatment,” Candice said. “And he had a real birthday party the day before his radiation ended. They got him an Oreo cake, which he loves, and presents and decorations. He was thrilled.”
Never doubt what small can do
Mason is now back home, spending time with his family and celebrating the upcoming holidays by driving around and looking at Christmas light displays. The family is hoping that an upcoming test will verify that Mason’s cancer has gone into remission, and he will continue receiving treatments for the fungal infection for the next two years.
Throughout the nearly year-long health journey Mason has reclaimed his love for soccer. During his cancer treatment he was feeling weak and, during physio sessions, he could barely kick the ball. But as he worked hard and regained his strength his kicks grew more powerful, threatening to damage the equipment in the physio room.
Through both his soccer skills and his treatment journey, Mason is living proof that small steps can lead to mighty results.