Ambassador Highlight: Meet Ava

Published: February 29th, 2016

Category: CMN Ambassador Stories, For the Kids, Patient Stories

12. Ava_HorEvery five minutes, Jen Mason would pace back and forth from the hospital room to the hallway, breaking down and then gathering herself again. She didn’t know anything about cancer. The nurses pulled out a Velcro dummy to demonstrate how a port could save her 8-year-old daughter Ava’s life. It all seemed so surreal to her.

In October 2010, 8-year-old Ava Mason had unexplained swollen lymph nodes in her neck. Doctors treated her with Prednisone, an anti-leukemic medication that made her lymph nodes shrink. Her second visit had inconclusive results, and she was told she didn’t need a follow-up appointment. Ava’s lymph nodes continued to grow even larger, and Ava visited UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital. After a biopsy, Ava was diagnosed with an initial diagnosis of leukemia/lymphoma.

The next morning, doctors surgically implanted her central line, which is used to give medicine, nutrients and blood products through a thin tube. Ava also underwent her first intrathecal chemotherapy treatment, a technique to deliver the drugs directly to the cerebrospinal fluid; and bone marrow aspiration, a procedure where a sample is taken from the soft, spongy tissue inside the bones.

Ava’s diagnosis was high-risk stage IV Non-Hodgkin’s T-Cell Lymphoblastic Lymphoma, a rare form of acute leukemia.

She responded exceptionally well to treatment. And three years later, she looked forward to ringing a celebratory bell on her last day of chemotherapy, a treasured and special ritual in UF’s pediatric department.

On April 5, she rang a very old and broken bell with a pen. Afterward, she decided to replace it with a brand new bell, bearing a plaque with an engraved poem her mom, Jen, wrote. Ava also added a stool for the “little, little kids” with an orange and blue alligator sticker and the word “warrior.”

Four years from that day, Ava is now cancer-free. “I’m mentally stronger now,” Ava said. “I know not to let things bother me because there are bigger problems, like starving kids and cancer patients.”