Surviving central nervous system lymphoma as a preteen
My name is Mason Ermis.When I was 9 years old, I began a journey that tested my courage and strength in ways I never thought possible. We came to MD Anderson after my primary doctor diagnosed me with Diabetes insipidus, which is sometimes caused by a brain tumor.
After an MRI at MD Anderson Children’s Cancer Hospital, we learned I had a small “spot” in my brain, near my pituitary gland, and another spot near my optic nerve. The spots were too small for neurosurgeon Dr. Jeffrey Weinberg to biopsy, so all I could do was wait and continue to have MRIs to see if the spots would grow or disappear on their own.
In December 2015, after losing my peripheral vision in both eyes, I had another MRI. This time, the spot near my optic nerve was large enough to biopsy. Dr. Weinberg and my pediatric neuro-oncologist, Dr. Wafik Zaky, were confident that they could safely get a biopsy so we could finally determine how to treat whatever this “spot” was.
Getting to the spot was not easy, and there were possible negatives to doing the biopsy, including loss of vision or complete blindness, but I knew this was what I needed to do. Surgery took place on Feb. 11, 2016. Although I did suffer some vision loss in my left eye, the surgery was a success overall.
A rare diagnosis: central nervous system lymphoma
Eight days later, we met with Dr. Zaky. He told me I had a very rare kind of cancer called central nervous system lymphoma. I had non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma growing in my brain. My doctors already had a plan in place. This disease needed to be treated aggressively. I had six rounds of chemotherapy through a port in my chest and through an ommaya, which is like a port for your brain. This would get the chemotherapy directly to my optic nerve.
On April 11, 2016, I had my very first seizure because of the trauma in my brain, but then I got some good news. The MRI after my seizure showed that I was cancer-free! I couldn’t believe that it took only one round of chemotherapy to kill the disease that was taking over my life. But I still had to complete all six rounds of chemotherapy to make sure I stayed that way.
I had many side effects from chemotherapy, including hair loss, shortness of breath, colitis, pancreatitis and even collapsed lungs. I knew I couldn’t ask “Why me?” because it was in God’s hands, and I had complete faith that I was going to beat cancer.
My last chemotherapy treatment was on Aug. 7, 2016, and I finally got to ring the bell with my family at my side. I knew all along that God was in control and this was going to be the fight of my life. I fought the battle, and I won. I beat cancer!
Staying positive with family support
Being diagnosed with cancer at age 11 was devastating. My mom had leukemia when I was only 4 years old so I knew what cancer could do. She was my hero. But the reality didn’t really set in until my first chemotherapy treatment. I remember thinking, “OK, this is for real, not just something that happens to other people.”
I would not be here today if it was not for all the doctors, nurses and staff and MD Anderson. Now, I am 13 years old, healthy and finding my new normal. I tell other cancer patients to stay positive and never lose your hope and faith. My family and my faith gave me all the strength, support and guidance that I needed to make it through. (My dad even helped me write this story!) If you believe in yourself and tell yourself you can do something, you can.