NACOGDOCHES, Texas (KTRE) - Wade Mason’s 10 month fight against colon and liver cancer has come to an end and now the Stephen F. Austin assistant basketball coach is ready to get back on the court.
Mason sent out a simple 6 word plus one emoji tweet on Sunday to declare he is free from the cancer that sidelined him most of the year.
“Going into this past weekend, I knew the amount of treatments that I had so I knew this was coming,” Mason said. “I had been counting down from Day 1 trying to get to that mark of 12. Once they bring that bell out it is a felling that you can’t describe."
The moment did not go the way Mason planned. If he had it his way his family and team of close supporters would have been there to cheer him on as he rang the bell but this was the only chemo session he did alone due to COVID-19.
“I didn’t want to waste anymore time getting out of there,” Mason said. “Once I rang that bell I was out. It was a relief.”
Mason was first diagnosed with colon cancer this past June. By July the cancer had spread to his liver. Mason wanted to keep doing his job with the team and make a trip to Spain with the new-look Lumberjacks as they played in an exhibition tour.
“I go back to the first conversation I had with coach Keller [after the diagnosis],” Mason said. “I was sitting there thinking about scout games and recruiting. I was thinking about my normal life, just basketball. He called me in his office and took basketball away from me.”
Mason admitted at the time he was not happy with Keller’s decision but he noted Keller has no ego and knows his role as a head coach of a college program.
“I look back on it and appreciate it,” Mason said. “Sometimes you have to save someone from themselves. It was almost like I was a player. As a coach, if a player is hurt you have to step in and shut him down as opposed to him hurting himself further. That was the situation I was in.”
Mason would coach when he could, which was not much. When he couldn’t coach but was in good spirits, Mason would show up to the SFA home games and grab a seat at the media table across from the SFA bench, keeping an eye on his players and offering encouragement when he could.
The NCAA basketball season was winding down as the COVID-19 pandemic was growing. Mason had just finished a chemo treatment in Houston and instead of going back to Nacogdoches, Mason stayed in Houston so he could be with the team at the Southland Conference Tournament. At 28-3 SFA was the favorite heading into the post season event. Mason walked into the team’s practice as the sports world began to change.
“The conference tournament had been canceled,” Mason said. “We had seniors crying and before Keller addressed them he immediately turned to me and said, ‘You got to go. You got to go.’ The team went out to eat and he told me, ‘No. Go back. Don’t you come eat with us. It is not safe for you.’”
Mason said at the time he felt like an outcast but he understands that his cancer left him with a compromised immune system which is not good for people who contract the virus.
“Everything was lined up for the team,” Mason said. “It was the perfect setup but unfortunately things happen. That’s what we teach our guys. Things are going to happen and you respond. Right now it is all about response. Not just for our guys but for the entire world.”
Mason’s focus now is staying healthy during the viral crisis and getting his strength back so he can return to the court.
“I cannot wait to get back on the court,” Mason said. “People don’t understand what it is like when you love something and have it taken away from you. I can’t wait to get in the gym with the guys. I can’t wait to hear the balls bouncing.”
Mason will have to undergo monitoring and tests for the rest of his life. He is remaining positive.
“They told me there is a 40 percent chance it could come back,” Mason said. “I am thinking about the 60 percent chance that it does not come back. I will have to do checkups, annual CT scans, annual colonoscopies. That is what is. That is the hand I was dealt. You have to continue to live and stay in prayer.”