2018 Mepham grad battling brain cancer

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Editor's note: The Herald has learned that Ian Mass passed away over the weekend. Our thoughts are with his family.

Ian Mass, 18, was first diagnosed with a potentially deadly form of eye cancer called retinoblastoma when he was 7 years old. For 11 long years, he fought the cancer, beating it twice — and holding on just long enough for him to graduate from Mepham High School on June 24.

Twelve days later, he underwent surgery to remove a brain tumor after a stroke and aneurysm that he suffered in June. The tumor was successfully removed, but fluid built up in his brain, making recovery impossible.

At press time, he was still fighting.

Because of the tumor, Ian lost movement in his left arm and leg, and had difficulty speaking. He was recovering from the surgery at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, but had not regained consciousness when his family learned of the fluid buildup Monday afternoon. The fluid affected the area of the brain that controls motor function, making an operation difficult. His family was given two options — approve an operation that would leave Ian in a vegetative state, or allow him to die. They chose the latter.

Staying close by his side were his parents, Elsa and Angel Mass. “We have to put him to rest,” his mother said through tears. “We can’t let him be a vegetable. It’s not what he would have wanted.”

Also lending support was his friend of nine years, Kiki Mastorakis, who set up a GoFundMe page for Ian. It had already raised more than $8,000 of the $15,000 goal as of press time. The funds will help the Mass family with funeral expenses, as well as medical bills.

“Ian is a warrior,” Mastorakis wrote on the GoFundMe page — “Ian’s Road for Recovery.” “He is a true fighter and such a wonderful kid,” she said.

Several members of the Mepham community posted comments, offering their condolences, including teachers and students. “Once a pirate, always a pirate,” wrote Sophia Specht, referring to the school’s mascot.

Thanks to hospital staff, arrangements were made for Ian to attend the Mepham graduation on June 24. With help, he crossed the stage in a wheelchair and accepted his diploma.

He had planned to attend Manhattan College to study communications after his recovery.

Elsa said that even though the cancer caused Ian to lose sight in one eye, he was still a “fighter.” He drove a car and attended Mepham, where he received high grades, including in his Advanced Placement classes.

“He was such a good person,” Elsa said. “Everyone loved him — in the community, at school. Everyone.”