The University of Arizona Health Sciences

These women don’t mess around

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“I want other survivors to know that looking at me might give them hope.”
— Mia Mason, University of Arizona junior and 9-year cancer survivor

Meet Jeannine and Mia Mason, two generations of Wildcat athletes and powerhouse advocates for children's cancer research. Join their team right now!

When Mia was 12, she was diagnosed with a rare brain cancer that affects less than 200 kids each year in the United States. Her family’s experience inspired Mia and her mother Jeannine to establish the Mia Mason Fund for immunotherapy research this year to support children’s cancer research at the University of Arizona Steele Children's Research Center. Immunotherapy re-programs a child’s own disease-fighting cells to fight the cancer in their body. It is a real game-changer for kids battling the disease.

Jeannine, a third generation Tucsonan and a former UA volleyball player, remembers how the family's life stood still on Monday, November 23, 2009.

Their story

“Mia was such a healthy 12-year-old girl. She had just played three soccer matches the day before. By the next day, she had developed these horrible headaches that were making her sick. I knew something wasn’t right. I immediately took her to see our family doctor. A CAT scan revealed a mass that turned out to be an ependymoma, an extremely rare cancer. From that moment, it was a whirlwind of doctors, surgery, waiting rooms, radiation treatments, and weeks and months of recovery. We learned so much about the research that had been done that allowed her doctors and radiologists to map out exactly where the radiation needed to go and what areas they needed to avoid. Only through research were they able to be so precise.

Now is the time to give.

This year, the Mason women are celebrating significant milestones, including Mia being nine years cancer-free. It seemed like the right time for them to tell their story.

For a young athlete like Mia, who plays on the UA beach volleyball team, sports have always guided her. That team mentality and spirit made a big difference while she was in the hospital for surgery, 33 radiation treatments and endless MRIs. “I think it definitely helped me through the process. Having everybody around me—family, doctors and my teammates—supporting me through it all really helped a lot. And, I just wanted to be able to play again.”

As long-time supporters of cancer research, Jeannine and Mia want you to join their team and let people know that research at the UA Steele Center is saving kids’ lives all over the world. Emmanuel Katsanis, MD, professor and chief, Division of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology, heads the team at the UA Steele Center that is moving pediatric cancer research forward.

“If Mia had something like this 10 years earlier, her outcome would not have been the same,” said Jeannine. “Research is the reason we’ve come so far. But we still have a long way to go.”

For Mia, it’s about paying it forward. “I want other survivors to know that looking at me might give them hope. Looking at me might help them say, ‘I’ll be okay, too.’”

We’re not messing around.