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Elmo brightens cancer patient’s day

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Saturday, Feb. 2, 2013, at 10:13 p.m.
  • Updated Saturday, Feb. 2, 2013, at 11:49 p.m.

Not much calmed Mason Meyer during the rash of invasive cancer treatments he’s undergone over the past year.

Coloring books. Puzzles. Trinkets and toys.

Nothing worked, except Elmo, the iconic Sesame Street character, Annette and Mark Meyer of Harper said.

“He watched a lot of Elmo (movies) and became pretty much obsessed with him and Sesame Street,” Mason’s mother, Annette, said.

So when the 2-year-old met the furry red monster on Saturday, he stood back.

He watched.

He waited for song and dance.

Then Elmo kissed his head, and Mason grinned.

Mason Meyer and his family attended Saturday’s 2 p.m. production of “Sesame Street Live: Can’t Stop Singing” compliments of the show after it learned the toddler relies on Elmo to tackle oligoastrocytoma, a cancerous brain tumor rare in children.

Mason’s cousin, 31-year-old April Devan, wanted to “bring a smile to his face.” So she contacted the producers of the show to tell his story.

“We wouldn’t have been able to go otherwise because we couldn’t afford it,” Annette Meyer said.

The show runs through Sunday at Intrust Bank Arena.

“He loved it,” she said of Mason after the production. “His eyes were wide for the whole thing. He had a really good time.”

A whirlwind of tests

Annette, a 29-year-old stay-at-home mom of four, said her son was born healthy and developed as expected for the first nine months.

Then the shaking started.

“He was shaking so bad, he would fall over. We knew that there was something wrong with him,” she said.

Six months later, doctors conducted an MRI. That’s when Annette and her husband, Mark Meyer, saw the fluid build-up and a “mass” growing in the center of their son’s brain.

“It’s scary. I can remember the moment the word ‘mass’ came out of that doctor’s mouth,” Annette said of that day: Dec. 8, 2011. “It’s like your world came to an end.”

Doctors conducted the first of two biopsies two days later, then installed a permanent shunt in Mason’s head to drain the fluid.

Meanwhile the family made plans to seek treatment at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, a leader in children’s medicine, in Memphis, Tenn.

A whirlwind of tests, procedures, surgeries and chemotherapy treatments followed Mason’s arrival on Jan. 6, 2012.

The toddler’s chemotherapy is delivered via a tube, called a subcutaneous port, surgically placed under his skin. It feeds the toxic chemicals into the main vessel of his heart.

During the five-hour-long treatments, doctors insert a needle into the port and hook Mason to an IV.

“Having a 1-year-old on a four-foot tether with a needle stuck in his skin is kind of delicate,” Annette Meyer said.

“We had to explore every avenue to get him to sit” — and stay still.

Her son would fidget, overcome with nausea and vomiting induced when the chemo fed into his tiny body.

It was by accident, Annette Meyer said, she discovered the key to calming her rambunctious toddler during recovery.

“We had a DVD of Elmo with us, and we popped it in. And he sat still,” she said.

“The music, the letters, the characters, the colors are engaging. He sang along with everything.”

A happy, bubbly toddler

Ten rounds of chemotherapy and three brain surgeries later, Mason’s condition is stable but he’s not in remission, Annette Meyer said. He came home from St. Jude’s in June and received his final dose of chemo in Wichita on Sept. 10.

The treatment left him developmentally delayed and damaged his hearing.

Doctors order an MRI at St. Jude every 90 days to monitor the tumor’s size. At last check, it was as large as a half dollar.

The family knows Mason’s tumor could grow. But Annette Meyer says she and Mark keep perspective and celebrate “each of his little victories”:

Mason started walking in May. Now he runs, skips and dances.

This fall, he touched dirt for the first time.

He can recite his ABC’s, recognize numbers, count to 50 — most of it learned from Elmo.

“He’s a happy, bubbly, normal active 21/2-year-old,” Annette Meyer said.

She added: “And we have quite an extensive collection of Elmo movies now.”

Reach Amy Renee Leiker at 316-268-6644 or aleiker@wichitaeagle.com. Follow her on Twitter: @amyreneeleiker.

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