On a Quest to Defeat The Villain!
Story by Michael Seguin
Photography by Eryn Shea Photography
Not all heroes wear capes. Some never need to. Mason Bacon-Macri was born on May 9th, 2012. “Mason was a surprise to us, the best surprise ever,” Chantelle Bacon, Mason’s mother, states. “From the moment he was born, he was an old soul. He was never his age. But he was also that typical boy who loved cars, superheroes, destroying things, building things.”
“His vocabulary developed really quickly,” Iain Macri, Mason’s father, explains. “When people would come over, they’d always say, ‘I can’t believe he’s saying full sentences.’ He was so well-spoken. He was just so in-tune with all the things he loved. He was funny, witty, well-mannered—all wrapped up into one little ball.”
“He was in a rush to grow up,” Chantelle states. “And now, I realize why.”
In December 2014, Mason began having problems going to the bathroom. After some initial changes to his diet, he improved.
However, in April 2015, his health again deteriorated. An ultrasound determined that there was a 10-centimeter mass located in Mason’s pelvis.
At two years old, Mason was diagnosed with rhabdomyosarcoma, an aggressive, malignant cancer.
Mason started chemotherapy on his third birthday, beginning his fight.
“We told him that he had a bad guy inside of him,” Iain explains. “A villain. That he’s going to have to get superpowers to fight off that bad guy. He was going to have to become an Avenger. We used all these analogies to superhero stories. He was getting Captain America’s Super Soldier Serum through his IV. He was getting radiation like the Hulk. His portacath was Iron Man’s arc reactor. That’s what we told him. And that stuck, throughout the entire journey.”
Mason’s fight began with 43 weeks of chemotherapy, with 1 to 4 sessions a week.
Around that same time, Chantelle started a blog, sharing Mason’s indominable will with the world. “He was reaching people throughout the world,” Chantelle states. “Connecting other families who have gone through this. It created an amazing support system at a time when you feel so alone.”
“He truly was becoming a superhero,” Iain states.
Mason’s fight lasted over a year. However, after months of chemotherapy and radiation, the tumor had become resistant to treatment. At the urging of their teams, Mason underwent a pelvic exenteration, a 13-hour surgery that involved removing his bladder and prostate.
But Mason, like a true superhero, recovered quickly. So quickly, in fact, that he was able to celebrate his fourth birthday at home. “Surgery-wise, everything was great,” Iain states. “They got the tumor out. He was cancer-free.”
However, three weeks later, on Chantelle’s birthday, Mason began having trouble keeping food down. After a week of tests, it was determined that Mason had metastatic disease throughout his entire body. “That was the nail,” Iain admits. “His cancer had spread everywhere.”
At that point, Iain and Chantelle withdrew Mason from care, bringing their superhero home.
During his final weeks, the community gathered around Mason like never before. Players from the San Jose Sharks wore Fight Like Mason bracelets during their playoff game. Don Cherry and Ron McLean sent him a video message. The Belle River Fire Department made Mason an Honourary Firefighter. The Snowbirds even diverted their path during an air show, soaring over the Bacon-Macri house.
“We spoiled him like crazy,” Chantelle recalls. “We bought him toys every day. He was stuck on the couch, almost unresponsive from the pain medication. His friends would come over, and they would play with his toys while he watched. Anything he asked for, he got. We tried to fit a lifetime of moments into three weeks.”
Mason passed away on June 27th, 2016, at four in the morning.
During his funeral, over 100 kids lined the streets in superhero costumes. “When we arrived at the funeral home, all these kids were lined up in Mason’s superhero pose,” Chantelle states. “They formed a procession all the way to his gravesite. Mason didn’t get to go to school. He never got to have friends. But seeing that he got to make all these friends throughout the community was incredible.”
And, in many ways, Mason is still making friends. Because his fight is not yet over. “Right before he passed away, when he was terminal, we made him a promise,” Iain states. “We looked him in the eye and told him, ‘Your fight does not end here. We promise we will do everything we possibly can to help the next kid that goes through this. We’re going to take that courage, that spirit, that soul and we’re going to share it with them.’”
The Fight Like Mason Foundation is dedicated to sharing Mason’s strength with other families struggling with childhood cancer, while also fixing the gaps in the pediatric cancer system.
“Governmental funding for childhood cancer is less than 5% of the whole cancer umbrella,” Iain states. “The drugs that they’re using for kids are old and outdated. Only four drugs have been invented since 1975—for one or two types of cancer. You think to yourself, ‘Why am I giving my kid 45-year-old medicine to fight these diseases?’”
The Fight Like Mason Foundation has raised almost one million dollars, establishing three advanced research grants and programs for childhood cancer, while also developing countless other projects, the most popular of which is Mason’s Power Poles.
“Hospitals are intimidating,” Iain states. “They’re sterile. One day, Chantelle was looking at his IV pole, and said, ‘Why does that pole have to look like that? Why can’t it be fun?”
Mason’s Power Poles is the world’s only custom IV pole. The Power Poles are decorated with bright, vibrant colors and adorned with images of superheroes and cartoon characters.
“That pole standing next to you is like your shadow,” Iain explains. “It becomes an extension of you. If it’s bleak and stale, you’re going to feel the same way. But if it’s bright and colorful and exemplifying your strength, then you can connect to it. This one little pole changes the entire room.”
The Fight Like Mason’s list of accomplishments is nothing short of heroic. And through it all, Iain and Chantelle have remained by each other’s sides.
“We knew our love had to be extremely strong,” Iain states. “We had to be the best parents we could be. And then, moving forward, it had to continue like that.”
Over the last couple years, their family has seen some new additions. Mason has two younger siblings, a two-year-old brother, Miller Mase, and a nine-month-old sister, Piper Phoenix.
Iain and Chantelle maintain that Mason, their favourite superhero, is still with them. “You look for signs, here and there,” Iain states. “Signs that he’s still here. We always look for them, but they’re always right in front of us. We walk outside and we see a shirt, or we hear about someone fundraising. He’s being talked about in communities right now, and we don’t even know about it. Every single day hundreds of kids are using his IV pole. Every single day, they grab onto it for strength.”