Mason had been complaining of a sore knee, so his parents took him to the urgent care centre. Staff there thought he might be suffering growing pains, but drew some blood just in case. The next day, a bombshell dropped. The urgent care centre called to say they suspected Mason might have leukemia and he needed to get to the Alberta Children’s Hospital right away. The family went straight to the emergency department, where a team was waiting for them. Further bloodwork confirmed that Mason had acute lymphoblastic lymphoma (ALL). It was a devastating diagnosis, as Mason’s cousin had previously battled leukemia and it seemed so unfair that a family would be struck twice with the same disease.
Staff at the hospital assured Josh and Crystal that ALL is typically treatable, though it would be a long journey – 3 ½ years. The primary focus was the first 30 days, when Mason would undergo aggressive chemotherapy to hopefully put him into remission so he could have a long, lower-intensity follow-up plan. However, after 30 days, Mason did not hit remission and was now deemed a “high-risk” case. The next step, according to their oncologist, Dr. Tony Truong, was to give Mason another 60 days of high-intensity chemotherapy. After that, if he still hadn’t hit remission, a bone marrow transplant would be the last resort. Josh struggled with the fact he felt it was his job to protect his family, yet this was something completely out of his control. He and Crystal realized when your child is sick, everything else is secondary, including your marriage, so they made a pinky promise to each other that they would not let this tear them apart.
Fortunately, Mason’s treatments were made bearable by the hospital’s Child Life team, who always laid his special blanket on his bed before he was admitted each time and were ready with a new toy when he was having a rough day. As well, the family was able to benefit from the donor-funded Hospital at Home program, in which a nurse would come to their house and administer Mason’s treatment where he felt most safe and comfortable in a much shorter time.
The week before Christmas, Mason was finished his second round of chemo and his family waited anxiously for the test results that would determine his path. The results turned out to be the very best Christmas present, with Mason deemed in remission! Mason is now on a long path of lower-intensity chemo to ensure he stays healthy, but his family is so grateful to the team at the Alberta Children’s Hospital who helped save his life.
To hear more stories like this or to donate to the 2017 Caring for Kids Radiothon in support of the Alberta Children’s Hospital Foundation visit www.KidsRadiothon.com