Brady Cook was shocked to find out his son, seven-week-old Mason, had a rare eye cancer.
It brought back painful memories of his brother Matt Cook, who died of bone and lung cancer 10 years ago. The former member of Canada’s national sledge hockey team was 22 years old when he passed away.
“You hope that you’re waking up from a really bad dream and every day that passes, you realize, ‘No, this is our new reality,'” Brady said.
Mason was born full-term and seemingly healthy. A few weeks later, his father noticed a strange white spot in his eyes that was only noticeable under certain lights.
After a flurry of referrals and tests, a pediatric ophthalmologist at the Stollery Children’s Hospital diagnosed Mason with bilateral retinoblastoma.
“Literally two weeks ago, we were enjoying life as if nothing was wrong. And on Monday [August 24] my son had his left eye removed,” Brady said.
The baby now has a prosthetic eye on his left side. Specialists at Toronto’s SickKids Hospital are trying to save his right eye with aggressive chemotherapy. He’s already had two treatments.
Mason’s mother, Alyssa, has also had her heart broken by cancer. At age nine, she lost her mother to breast cancer.
Lynn Anderson Cook, Brady’s mother, is worried about their entire family.
“It’s just too much, too fast, too soon, in so many ways,” Lynn said.
“It certainly brings up that same familiar feeling which you spend a lot of time trying to get away from.”
What has helped the Cooks over the years is helping others. Their charity, the Matt Cook Foundation, raises funds for young adults fighting cancer.
Now their community is giving back. Friends and family set up a GoFundMe page to help pay for Mason’s medical bills that are not covered by insurance, as well as travel costs to and from Toronto. The baby will need follow-ups at SickKids every month for the next two years.
“The word ‘heartwarming’ doesn’t do justice to the outpouring of love and support,” Lynn said.
Right before his first chemotherapy treatment, Mason flashed his parents his first smile.
“I’m sure just by reading his character that Mason will do everything he can to pay it forward as well,” Brady said.
After all, that is the Cook way.