Journal Staff

Story Vault

By Journal Staff

NEWARK – It has been 91 days since 22-year-old Mason Faller learned he had T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia, a cancer of the blood and bone marrow.

Throughout the hospital stays, the rounds of chemotherapy and the reminder that there's only a 68 percent chance he will go into remission, Faller has tried to focus on the good days rather than the bad.

And he is 100 percent determined to beat cancer.

"I just try not to think about (the 68 percent)," Faller said. "I'm just good right now. I'm keeping going and I'm getting through it."

At first, Faller, a firefighter and emergency medical technician for the Newton Township Fire Department as well as a dispatcher with the Licking County 911 Center, just thought he had a virus.

But after experiencing fevers, weakness and then severe pain in his upper thigh and groin area that wasn't getting better, his father, Randy Wince, took him to an urgent care facility.

The family isn't sure what they thought the physicians would tell them, but they never could have expected to be told Faller had a mass on his heart. The doctors recommended Faller follow up with the hospital as soon as possible.

Faller had to wait two days before he could make the appointment, but within 15 minutes of completing his blood work, doctors at Licking Memorial Hospital already suspected he was suffering from some type of cancer, his mother, Theresa Wince, said. They told her it was likely lymphoma, and Theresa decided to transfer her son to the James Cancer Hospital at Ohio State University.

It was there that doctors were able to confirm he had T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia, a form of cancer that causes the body to overproduce cancerous, immature white blood cells that rarely is found among adults.

The diagnosis was one that Theresa Wince wasn't prepared for.

"My gut instinct as a mom was that something was wrong with him. I've never had that feeling with any of my kids before," she said. "But it was like shock. We were totally unprepared for it.

"As a mom, you go through this grieving period that is just unbearable. You feel every pain they're going through."

Faller spent the next month in the hospital undergoing his first round of chemotherapy. His treatment follows four modules, the second of which is the most aggressive. He recently finished the second module and is working to get his blood counts up before he can go on to the third one.

The family is now looking at the national bone marrow registry for a possible donor for Faller, who might need a bone marrow transplant depending on whether the cancer returns at any point during his treatment.

Not only has Faller's cancer taken an emotional toll in the family, it also has created a financial burden. One of his pharmacy bills alone was $29,000.

To help the family pay for Faller's medical bills, the Utica Volunteer Fire Department is hosting its second Touch-the-Truck Benefit in Faller's name.

The event is scheduled for 2 to 5 p.m. Sept. 13 at Utica High School, 260 N. Jefferson St., in Utica and will include visits from fire trucks and MedFlight and Air Evac helicopters, a silent auction, a 50-50 raffle, and more. All proceeds from the event will be donated to Faller and his family.

Sadie Woodruff, with the Utica department, started the event in 2013 to help the department's former fire chief after he fell off a roof and was injured. After the success of the first Touch-the-Truck, members of the department encouraged Woodruff to make it an annual event to help firefighters in need.

She knew Faller through the fire department and through his family, as Theresa cuts Woodruff's hair at her studio in Hilliard. As soon as she heard about Faller's diagnosis, she immediately decided to host the benefit for him.

Having the support of so many people, whether they are friends, family, co-workers or even strangers, has meant the world to Faller and his family, Theresa said.

She estimates she received nearly 200 text messages in the days after Mason's diagnosis from people who wanted to share their support. Theresa Wince then started a Facebook group to share near-daily updates on how Mason is recovering; the group now has 1,282 members.

Seeing the messages has helped Mason stay positive, his mother said.

Now that the most aggressive part of the chemotherapy is over, Faller is hoping he will be able to return to work soon. There's only so much binge watching of TV he can take, he said, and he's itching to get out of the house and have something to do.

He has to take it a day at a time, and it will all depend on where his blood counts are, but Faller is shooting to be back at the 911 center by September.

"The other day, one of the firefighter said that they can't wait to hear him on the radio again," she said.

Want to go?

• What: Touch-the-Truck Benefit for Mason Faller

• When: 2 to 5 p.m. Sept. 13

• Where: Utica High School, 260 North Jefferson St., Utica

• FYI: Donations will be accepted. For more information, call 419-560-5653 or go to