Sunday, August 17, 2008

New blog and website

We decided to separate the blog for the fund and its activities from this blog, and establish a dedicated website, so check out the blog and website.

This blog will remain, and we may post to it periodically.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Mason's Tree

Last year the Key School Community planted a tree at Mason's memorial service. At the end of the school year his class painted cement stars that Danielle made to decorate the tree. Danielle and Francisca made two plaques -one in English and one in Spanish to place at the foor of the tree.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Mason's headstone

It was placed at West Point this week. It says:
Mason Robert Leach
Superhero, soccer star, artist, and our loving, laughing little boy gone too soon.
Says it all doesn't it?

Monday, May 12, 2008

Race for Brain Tumors May 5

The boys with Dr. Bear from Children's

We ran the race again this year. We were a part of Children's Hospital team. Last year, Mason ran the last 100 yards. Mateo's friends and our friends came down and ran with us. It was tough emotionally but the race overall was terrific. Over 7000 people and raised over 2.5 million dollars. Here are some photos from the event.


Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Something to share

This something we wrote for a blog and website about childhood brain tumors.

Our Mason was a fighter, a superhero, an artist, a soccer player, a baseball player and a cancer survivor. He was diagnosed with disseminated large cell anaplastic medulloblastoma in July 2006. His only original symptoms were four days of vomiting. Our lives changed that July day dramatically and we worked together to provide him with a life as normal as possible.

Cancer did not define Mason. Mason defined his cancer. Being only 3, almost four at diagnosis, we were not sure how to handle all this. Would he go to school? Could he play sports? How in the heck do you discipline him when he was suffering so much? But my dad gave us good advice and said Mason was not cancer. Cancer was only something he had- not who he was now. That philosophy guided us through our cancer journey.

Mason, despite his age, wanted to know what was happening with his body. Even when we were talking with the doctors and he seemed not to be paying attention, he would come back and ask questions later. Respect that children are listening and deserve to know what is happening to them in age appropriate terms. These kids are smart and grow up so fast. Any control and power we give to them through knowledge and choice helps them. Even at age 4, he demanded to be heard. He was a quiet patient, maybe not the friendliest, but he knew that the hospital was trying to save his life. When he felt awful he would ask to call the doctors to see what they could do to help. They were not the enemy.

Mason, throughout his life, was a force of nature. He was sweet and loved to give hugs and kisses but he was also stubborn as an ox and very vocal about what he wanted. That served him well when he began his battle. We truly believe it was that stubbornness and his determination that helped him regain back his speech and mobility after his surgery. It was that determination that got him out of bed to play with his brother when Mateo came home from school everyday. It was that strength that kept him going in his last weeks when he must have felt atrocious but still fought to stay with us with all his might.

There were some days that we didn’t have patience and we were tired. We all were. We still had to put him in time out for biting his brother or throwing the remote control at him. We had to make him go to school some days. He only wanted to go when there was PE and art- his favorite specials. He learned he could try to get out of things when he said “he was sick.” All four year olds do that.
We encouraged him to play soccer and baseball and go to school. He got knocked down and his skinny legs looked so frail in his soccer shorts. But he was having a great time just being a kid and some of our best memories of him are of him scoring a goal and celebrating. All our little boy wanted to do was to play with his brother, wear his soccer jerseys and be with his family.

He continued to live his life despite what was happening to his body. He taught us that despite all the horrible things, the hospitalizations, the medicines, the shots, etc, that life was meant to be lived. Keep going. Many nurses and hospital staff will remember this little boy kicking a soccer ball all over the hospital and throwing himself on the floor as a goalie, or on the green ATV at the hospital with his parents running behind him with his IV pole down the hall.

We have had to remind ourselves of his fortitude and his example as we mourn his loss. He died on October 13, 2007. We know that he used all his will to overcome his disease, but he did not get the miracle. Everyday we struggle with his loss, but we just imagine this little boy yelling at us to keep going, to love his brother and each other. He demands that of us. That is what keeps us going.

What can we say to others about this experience and our son? Keep fighting. Every child is their OWN statistic. Ask for help. Let them be kids. Cancer is not who they are. Love them as much as you can every day. Treat them the same way as before the disease. Do the best you can. Remember they love you. No matter what happens-they will always be a part of your life.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Francisca donates her hair to Locks of Love

Francisca went for a new look and decided to donate her hair to Locks of Love in honor of Mason. Locks of Love makes wigs for children with cancer. For more information go to

What a special thing for her to do and we love her for it. Plus she looks great!

Friday, January 11, 2008

The Holidays

We imagine that folks may have been wondering how the holidays went. As you can imagine, it was pretty hard. All the "firsts" without Mason are hard. But we tried our best to honor his memory and enjoy the holiday he loved so much. Friends of ours came over and helped us decorate the tree before we left for NY. That really helped us.

We kept most traditions the same. We went to NY and had a pre-Christmas with my parents and siblings, then it was off to Albany for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. On Christmas Eve we had star helium balloons and we wrote notes to Mason and Poppa - (Kirk's Dad who passed a couple of years ago) and let the balloons go. Mateo wrote on his note: "I hope you are okay." We also prepared our reindeer food like we always do, and put candles in the ground to light the way. We held hands and said a few words about Mason and those we loved and missed.

Kirk's sister and her family changed their usual plans and spent Christmas morning with us so Mateo would have kids around. That really helped to not seem so empty and strange as both Mason and Francisca (who was on vacation in Bolivia) were not there. Then we went to Kirk's brother's house for dinner. We had a little candlelight ceremony. Each of us had a card to read: family, community, memories, love, laughter etc. The kids and family added to what Kirk and I wrote. The candles looked beautiful and had stars on them.

I also went and saw Mason's grave. The temporary headstone is up and my friend Mary and I placed notes that Kirk, Mateo and I wrote for him. A friend had suggested a blanket of pine to put on the grave and we did that. It was a beautiful day- crisp, cold wintry.

And so life continues.....

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Mason's jeep

As you know, using Celebration of Life funds, we purchased a battery powered jeep for Mason's birthday that he loved. Recenlty, we asked Mateo if he wanted to keep it and he said no, he was too big for it. We asked if he wanted to give it to another kid at the hospital and he said he wanted to do that. So we asked the hospital if we could give it to a friend of Mason's, if he would like it. It has gone to a little 5-year old leukemia patient, Jake, who was a friend of Mason's at the hospital. He loves Power Rangers and Superheroes like Mason.

His parents picked it up a week before Christmas. He was very excited and knew it came from friends and family of Mason for him to enjoy. We thought it was the right thing to do.

Holiday greetings

This is what we sent out to family and friends. We appreciate all your help always.

Dearest Family and Friends:

This year’s Christmas note is difficult to write, as you can imagine. It has been two months since we lost Mason and it has irrevocably changed our lives. We grieve and struggle to find the strength every day to keep going. But as we reflect upon the last year of our lives, there have been many good times, laughter, and bittersweet moments that help us remember we did the best we could to bring our boys joy in the midst of pain and sorrow. We enjoyed their laughter, fighting, their happiness, frustrations, tears, and loved them with all our hearts and souls. We could not have survived without our family and friends. You have given us so much support, phone calls, e-mails, money, food and many special gestures and invitations. You have gone beyond what any community of people needed to do for us. Our boys knew they were loved, cared for, prayed for and embraced by pure positive energy and love from those around them near and far. It made all the difference and continues to make a difference as we put our lives back together again.

As we have said before, if love and prayers could have saved Mason, he would have been healed a million times over. But it was not meant to be- for reasons we will never understand. We are committed to love each other the best we can and find a way to give back so much of what we have been given.

A good friend who lost her son to cancer told us that there will always be the pain of losing Mason. That never goes away. But she said that you learn to live with that pain and learn to live again. It may take us awhile to come to that point, but we, together with you all, will get there, somehow, someway.

We all know the holidays are crazy times with families and stress. Breathe. Try to love those around you for who they are. Laugh. Love your kids even when they are making you a bit loony. Love them every moment they are here, for life changes in an instant and you are never the same.

You, our family and friends, are treasured by us and you help us keep going every day. We will continue to post updates on the blog to inform you on what we are doing with your generous donations to the hospital. Please check it periodically for updates.

Thank you for all your patience with us as we try to piece our lives back together. Bear with us. We will get through this with your love and support.

With much love and gratitude,

Kirk, Danielle, Mateo and Francisca