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If his smile is his umbrella, 6-year-old Mason will weather the storm
by Terri Hogan
Senior Staff Writer
Mason Mazzuca looks like a carefree 6-year-old — playing with Legos, wearing superhero costumes and always sporting an infectious smile that stretches from ear to ear.
“If you met Mason, you may not know what he is going through,” said his mother, Keli Mazzuca.
She, her husband Bob and Mason live in Olney.
What’s behind that smile is a fighter. Mason is battling T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia.
He was scheduled to undergo a bone marrow transplant at Children’s National Medical Center on Nov. 9 after The Greater Olney News press time.
Mason was diagnosed with the disease in February 2016.
He has undergone more than any child should. Hemorrhages in his head caused him to completely loose his vision for a month, but it has since been restored through surgery.
In June 2016, he was declared to be in remission, but relapsed this past July.
Because he relapsed so soon, doctors recommended a bone marrow transplant.
Keli Mazzuca said the marrow came from an unrelated perfect match, found through the Be the Match registry.
“We encourage everyone to sign up for this because it is just a simple cheek swab,” she said. “Hopefully this will be a cure for him.”
The week leading up to the transplant involved intense radiation and chemotherapy to destroy all of his own marrow.
Mason made the best of it, enjoying daily ambulance rides to Sibley Hospital in Northwest D.C. for radiation and watching the helicopters land on the rooftop at Children’s.
He will likely be in the hospital four to six weeks.
The Mazzucas have tried to make everything as normal as possible for Mason. He attended school at Brooke Grove Elementary through the end of October.
“Brooke Grove has totally embraced Mason,” Mazzuca said. “They’ve been amazing.”
He now has a tutor because he is expected to be out of school at least 100 days.
But his desk in his classroom is not empty. In Mason’s place is a “Monkey in my Chair,” a large stuffed monkey named Edwin, who keeps Mason and his classmates connected. Mason gets photos of what Edwin is doing in school, and Edwin brings Mason his backpack each week.
In addition to the Brooke Grove community, Keli Mazzuca said the family is blessed with “an incredible village of support.” They have several family members living in Olney and surrounding areas.
“Also, the doctors, nurses and the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS), which came with a fleet of people, have supported us,” she said. “The pediatric oncology world is never one I wanted to be in, but the other families and staff are the finest breed of people. It gives you a whole other perspective on life.”
Through Team Impact, a nonprofit organization that teams sick children with college athletes, Mason was recently “drafted” by the University of Maryland baseball team, and the coaches and players keep in close contact.
He has met other celebrities, including Washington Redskins linebacker Ryan Kerrigan and Washington Nationals right fielder Bryce Harper.
“They have all been great,” Mazzuca said. “Mason doesn’t really understand that it is not normal to meet these people.”
To follow Mason’s progress, visit the MasonStrong page on Facebook.
Keli Mazzuca said her family has not established a crowdsourcing effort, but instead supports the LLS and other organizations that benefit sick children, such as the Hope for Henry Foundation. The Mazzucas, along with their “village” of supporters, have raised nearly $60,000 for the LLS over the past two years through the Light the Night Walk.
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