January 24, 2019
Mason Stehley loves being outside. For the 8-year-old, not much can beat playing football at recess with his classmates.
But for many months, Mason was bound to the classroom, too sore and tired to play outside with his friends. Mason is one of the more than 15,000 American children diagnosed with cancer each year. Instead of running and playing like other kids their age, these children face surgery, chemotherapy, radiation and hospital or clinic visits.
Mason’s cancer journey will be honored during the Minot State University gold out games on February 2. Funds raised at the event will support Brave Kids Bold Cures, a fundraising initiative of the Sanford Health Foundation that supports pediatric cancer care at Sanford Children’s Bismarck.
In October 2017, Mason’s parents, Jodee and Tim Stehley, took him to the doctor for what they thought was an unusual rash all over his chest. Mason seemed healthy. He was slightly more tired than usual, but he was also out playing with his friends a lot.
The Stehleys were shocked to learn Mason had acute lymphoblastic leukemia, a cancer of the blood and bone marrow. The little bumps on his chest were actually small bruises, a common symptom of the disease.
Mason was rushed from the family’s home in Minot to Sanford Children’s Fargo by ambulance to begin his treatment. By the time the family returned home a week later, they had a roadmap for the next three and a half years of cancer treatment.
“It all happened so fast,” Jodee said. “Before Mason was diagnosed, I never really thought about childhood cancer. Once he was diagnosed, I realized how many are affected by it.”
Luckily, Mason’s cancer has a 97 percent survival rate, but his treatment hasn’t been without its struggles. He lost his thick wavy hair six months into his treatment and spent a month in the hospital for a severe infection in his appendix.
The family also spent a lot of time away from home, traveling four hours from Minot to Fargo on a regular basis. The family is grateful to have treatment available in their home state of North Dakota, but all the time away from home and Mason’s two older sisters weighed on the whole family. Mason also missed a lot of school and opportunities to pass a ball with his friends.
Today, Mason and his family get to stay closer to home. At this stage in Mason’s treatment, he can receive much of the care he needs just two hours away at Sanford Bismarck. The family only makes the longer trip to Fargo every three months.
“Him not having to be far away and us being home a lot more helps him stay positive,” Jodee said.
Sanford Children’s Bismarck offers the only pediatric cancer services in western North Dakota. Donors to Brave Kids Bold Cures help provide the expert technology, equipment, programs and services to help kids like Mason.
Now Mason misses much less school and very few chances to play.
“He’s back to playing football outside with his friends,” Jodee said. “He loves being outside, so that helps his mood tremendously.”
Jodee can’t wait for the day Mason’s treatment is completed. If everything goes as planned, Mason should be cancer-free by the end of 2020.
“I dream about making it to the end of his treatment and finally feeling like we can breathe easier,” Jodee said.
Brave Kids Bold Cures
Brave Kids Bold Cures is a fundraising initiative supporting kids fighting cancer at Sanford Health.
Young heroes like Mason and their families inspire us every day with their courage in the face of unimaginable challenges. They deserve every chance for a future beyond the pain and fear of cancer.
Brave Kids Bold Cures, powered by our passionate community of supporters, helps ensure Sanford Health has the resources and capacity to treat children with cancer closer to home. Supporters make a difference for kids by helping:
- Purchase lifesaving technology and equipment
- Advance pediatric cancer research
- Provides unique programs and services for pediatric patients and their families
- And much more!