Mason is the youngest of four kids. Like a lot of two-year-old boys, he has two speeds: fast and faster. When he’s not getting lost in the prehistoric world of dinosaurs, he’s bouncing, swimming or playing his favourite game 'chasey’. But life for Mason didn’t start out as joyful.
When Mason was two months old, he was diagnosed with Embryonal Rhabdomyosarcoma – an aggressive soft tissue tumour. As his mum, Casey, recalls, “Our lives changed on a dime once we received Mason’s diagnosis.”
At the time, the family lived in Kalgoorlie – 6.5 hours from Perth Children’s Hospital – and were told Mason wouldn’t be going home for the next year and a half while he underwent treatment. This involved having surgery at six months old, followed by 42 weeks of intensive chemo.
The family were distraught. It would mean splitting their family between Kalgoorlie and Perth. A decision that “broke me”, says Casey.
But with the long journey ahead, Casey felt blessed to have a place to stay at Ronald McDonald House Nedlands in Perth. Especially as she had to take leave without pay while she supported Mason through his treatment.
As the months passed and Casey went through the trauma of her son’s treatment, the Nedlands House was with her at every turn.
When she lost her income, Casey relied on donations and support from RMHC. When her oldest son, Ariki, enrolled in a school close to the hospital, the education staff at RMHC helped her find a tutor to support Ariki through the transition.
When she was exhausted after a long day at the hospital, someone would cook her a meal. And importantly, when she was struggling because she was so far away from the people she loved most, RMHC became her family.
“The staff and volunteers would move mountains for us to ensure we had what we needed and always checked in to see how we were doing. We weren’t just guests; they actually cared.”
There was always someone to help, someone to make a fuss over the kids, someone to ensure they had good food to eat, someone looking out for Mason’s safety and someone to be a friend to Casey.
As Casey says, “it’s a tough gig trying to look after a sick kid and deal with all the trauma on your own. So having everything we needed so close to the hospital was a godsend, and it was key to how we coped.”
Now two years old, Mason and his family have been on quite the journey in his short life. One that his Mum says is now filled with the hope of seeing him grow up and live his life