A Washington community is rallying to help the family of a 7-year-old boy with brain cancer who was diagnosed just months after his father died from the same cancer.
Masen Lopes was diagnosed with stage 3 astrocytoma, a kind of brain cancer, in 2013, according to his mother, Kainani Lopes. The second-grader has been through a host of treatments, including surgery and chemotherapy, his mom told ABC News today.
The community of Gig Harbor, Washington, has been instrumental in helping the family deal with the pressure and stress of cancer treatment for Masen, his mom said. Masen's best friend helped organize a Little League night in honor of Masen after he had surgery to treat the tumor and a new event called "Mason's Epic Celebration" planned for later this month, according to his mom.
"He has definitely captured the hearts of many people," Lopes told ABC News.
She and her family moved to the area when her husband was getting treated, Lopes said. The family was originally from Hawaii and Lopes said she was surprised at how welcoming the residents have been, saying it is similar to the close-knit communities in Hawaii.
"You don’t find it often," she said.
Masen's diagnosis has been especially hard on the family since it came just eight months after his father died from the same type of cancer, Lopes said.
"Brain cancer is hard, especially this kind of brain cancer and this stage. There’s treatments but no cure," she explained.
Lopes asked doctors if the cancer could be genetically related, but they said it was just a coincidence, she said. Doctors at Seattle Children's Hospital are now hoping an experimental cancer treatment called immunotherapy can help combat Masen's cancer.
"We’re going to fight it. Inside, it tears me apart," Lopes said. "I’ve seen it from beginning to end."
For now, Lopes said she is focused on keeping hope alive for her son and making sure he's able to enjoy his "Epic Celebration."
"If you ask him, he says he feels famous," Lopes said of Masen's reaction to the attention he's getting.
She said they've even started a Masen challenge, in which people post video of themselves doing his favorite dance, the "Whip Nae Nae."
"Their dad was a huge dancer, so my kids always danced around with their dad," Lopes said.