Mason Parrish was a ten-year-old Pokémon Master who loved sushi and video games. He was diagnosed with DIPG on December 24, 2010 after telling his parents “my left side feels weak and weird.” Five days earlier, he shoveled the snow off the front porch. Then two days after diagnosis he couldn’t walk, talk, eat or move. That’s how fast DIPG came on. Before this, he was so strong and otherwise healthy that his body was able to compensate for the damage until it reached a threshold that practically destroyed him.
Mason had six weeks of radiation and enrolled in a clinical trail at Children’s Memorial Hospital in Chicago. He transferred to the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago to gain strength and relearn basic skills. Mason’s parents lived with him at the hospital for over two months until his release on the day before his 10th birthday. Being home and together as a family was the present for which they were most grateful, plus Mason’s follow up scans showed a 30% reduction in tumor size.
Throughout Mason’s battle with brain cancer, he maintained the most amazing attitude. He hardly complained. The family spent a lot of time snuggling, eating Mason’s favorite foods, and trying to make Mason giggle. Hearing Mason laugh was the sound they loved most, and they were not above resorting to potty humor if it worked. In his most difficult moment he was asked, “If you could be any superhero, who would you be?” He replied, “I wouldn’t want to be a superhero, because then I couldn’t be myself.”
Mason was doing outpatient rehab therapy, and making amazing progress when suddenly, while doing the stairs, his legs buckled. The next week he showed symptoms of hydrocephalus and was taken to the ER where they performed an emergency shunt procedure. The next day, they took a set of scans and this is where his family learned the tumor had seeded out in his spinal fluid and taken root all over the surface of his brain and spine.
Mason’s family commuted to Chicago so he could have daily radiation treatments, until he was admitted to the PICU because of seizures caused by the metastatic disease growing worse throughout his brain. He was induced into a coma, and after a few weeks it became clear that he wasn’t going to wake up. Mason’s parents lived with him in the PICU where he remained for 94 days until his death on August 24, 2011.
Back when Mason was an inpatient at RIC, a therapist asked him what he wanted to work on. Mason responded, “What’s the toughest thing you’ve got?” The therapist answered, “The stairs.” So Mason said he wanted to do the stairs. And he did do the stairs. Every day.
This is Mason Parrish.
This is his attitude.
This is who we fight for.
A little boy who had “the toughest thing you’ve got.”