INDIANAPOLIS — Mason Garvey loved sports and music.
“Those were probably the two things he loved most,” said Kevin Garvey, Mason's father.
Mason loved all the latest hits, hip-hop, classic rock. He would always be throwing a ball and bobbing his head with headphones on.
“If it had a ball, Mason enjoyed it,” Kevin said. “He loved Indianapolis sports, probably that was more my doing."
Mason played baseball, football, soccer, but he loved playing basketball.
At the end of August 2018, Mason was diagnosed with stage four Embroyanal Rhabdomyosarcoma. But getting that diagnosis took unrelenting advocacy on his behalf by his parents.
“When we talk about what led us to that (diagnosis), it was honestly mom instinct,” Kevin said.
The Garvey’s noticed Mason was having trouble sitting and going to the bathroom. His mom Heather also noticed a small lump on her son’s pelvis. But other than that pain, he was a healthy kid.
“He was squirrely and it’s hard because he was seven years old. And how much of it do you chalk up to, 'that’s just a seven year old,' versus no parent ever has the thought enter their mind that it could be cancer,” Kevin said.
The Garveys said doctors initially told them that they had nothing to worry about. They said Mason just had constipation and that they couldn’t even feel the lump that Heather said she discovered. But Heather said, that as a mom, she knew it was more.
After two weeks of visiting various doctors, they finally got a diagnosis.
“That kid was covered in cancer. When he was diagnosed, it was stage four. The primary tumor was in his pelvis and it was just engulfing everything and had metastasized to his lungs,” Heather said.
But Mason is a Garvey...and the Garveys don’t give up.
“We processed and then we went to war,” Kevin said.
When they sat down, the oncologist told them that Mason was going to lead them through this battle.
“I remember thinking she’s crazy! You know, we’re the parents. We’re in control here. We’re going to lead this,” Kevin said. “She couldn’t have been more right. He was inspiring."
During the course of his first round of treatments, over a span of 43 weeks: he ad 30 chemotherapy treatments, 33 radiation treatments to his pelvis area, and another ten radiation treatments to his lungs. Throughout all of that, his father said he didn't miss a single one of his sport seasons.
The Garveys tried everything. The mass along Masons pelvis slowed it’s growth, but the cancer was still spreading in his lungs. They tried a clinical trial in Seattle and flew out to the west coast for six weeks. Two weeks after he returned home, Mason Garvey lost his two year battle with cancer.
“As parents, you spend so much effort planning for the future. And you think about all these events that you plan your kids life out for them. They’ll go to college, they’ll get married. They’ll do everything you’ve done in your life,” Kevin said. “And you gotta not spend so much time thinking about that and spend more time being in the moment.”
The Garveys haven’t given up their fight against pediatric cancer.
“Pediatric cancer only gets 4 percent of government funding,” Heather said. “And of that 4 percent you think there are hundreds of forms of pediatric cancer. So you take that 4 percent and you divide it up among all of these different forms of cancer. I mean, there’s nothing left."
The Garveys were able to get Indiana to sign a proclamation both in 2019 and 2020 declaring September "Childhood Cancer Awareness Month" in Indiana. But they’re not stopping there.
“When you see pink, they know what it means,” Heather said. "Our hope and our vision is that when people see gold they know, ‘oh, that stands for childhood cancer.'"
On Saturday Indianapolis will be going gold and the Garveys want to increase their efforts each year. Next year they want to get the Marriott building to also join the efforts to raise awareness about childhood cancer.
Last year they had the IPL building lit up with a gold ribbon and the words, “Fight Like a Kid.”
“This year we’ll be adding Lilly (which will be lighting up gold at 7 p.m.) and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway,” Heather said.
IMS will light the pylon gold with the words “#FightLikeAKid.”
And if you’ve ever met a kid fighting cancer you know exactly what “fight like a kid” means.
If you'd like to donate to cancer research, the Garvey family asks that you support the Tyler Trent Foundation.