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People Profile: Making No Excuses, Defying the Odds

Network - Winter 2010


By Laura Prus

Diagnosed with heptocellular carcinoma (a type of liver cancer) in 2004 and given four to six months to live, Mike Mason refused to accept the prognosis. He sought a second opinion, and within seven days became a patient at M. D. Anderson.

With his positive philosophy and determination in tow, Mason left his home in Coffeyville, Kan. (pop. 10,000), and traveled to Houston. His new surroundings appeared daunting, but Mason remained steadfast in his decision.

Medical team’s optimism is catching

Mason received chemotherapy to shrink his tumor, and in 2006 his doctors surgically removed 40 percent of his liver. “I’m glad I didn’t accept the first opinion. Cancer is a stifling thing, but the people down there were wonderful,” Mason says of his experience at M. D. Anderson.

Mike Mason

He was thrilled to find a helpful disposition from everyone bearing an M. D. Anderson badge, especially his medical staff. The expertise of Melanie Thomas, M.D., assistant professor in the Department of Gastrointestinal Medical Oncology, Jean-Nicolas Vauthey, M.D., professor in the Department of Surgical Oncology, and pharmacist Richard Lozano helped Mason defy his original prognosis. Together with his “no excuses” attitude, the team helped make Mason cancer free.

The optimism and support Mason received during his treatment inspired him to give back. Searching for a way to express his gratitude, he came across information on the Anderson Network Patient and Caregiver Telephone Support Line. When he learned that the program then lacked a volunteer who’d had liver cancer, he responded, “You have one now.”

Since this enthusiastic beginning, Mason has offered hope, support and encouragement to nearly 50 patients struggling with their diagnoses. The Telephone Support Line, which matches newly diagnosed patients with survivors of the same disease, now has three volunteers who are liver cancer survivors.

‘It’s amazing what can happen’

Because of his passion for providing hope to patients, the Anderson Network recently named Mason the 2009 Telephone Networker of the Year. He says he enjoys the opportunity to work directly with patients who are facing the same diagnosis he did. He continues to encourage them to consult a cancer specialist.

Mason knows he is living proof that even when facing a devastating diagnosis, a chance exists. “If you search out the right places, have faith, be strong and meet with the right people, it’s amazing what can happen,” he says.

Clearly, amazing things have happened for Mason since his first doctor’s visit five years ago, leaving him very grateful to M. D. Anderson. “I’m more than willing to do anything I can to help spread the word,” he says.

For more information about the Patient and Caregiver Telephone Support Line, call 800-345-6324 or check the Anderson Network site.


© 2014 The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center