A chat with Dr Mason

Former wish child Kylie Mason knew a lot about hospitals, spending two and a half years receiving radiotherapy and chemotherapy at The Royal Children’s Hospital. Decades later, she’s back in hospital, but this time as a doctor helping people with leukaemia and lymphoma.

What was your wish?

To have a book published. I was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia in 1988 when I was 15. I had two and half years of chemotherapy and radiotherapy, and I wrote a book about my experiences.

My visiting teacher suggested that it would be good to have it published so that the story could be shared with others in the same situation and with people working with young people with cancer. So I asked Make-A-Wish to have my book published so that I could use it to help other young people with cancer.

Kylie with her book that was published for her wish

What happened to the book?

It was distributed to a number of schools and libraries, which was a great privilege to have my story shared.

After overcoming leukaemia, did you stay in good health?

No, I had a brain tumour 20 years after my original treatment as a result of the radiotherapy I had for my leukemia.

That must have been very hard to take?

It did feel a bit unfair, but then again, I wouldn’t have been here without the original treatment, so in many ways, it is easy to be grateful that I am here regardless of what longer-term problems that entails.

Where did your medical studies start?

I did Medicine at the University of Melbourne and then have become a haematologist - working now at the Department of Clinical Haematology at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre and The Royal Melbourne Hospital. I look after people with leukaemia and lymphoma, and other blood disorders. I have a special interest in the late effects of treatment (like I experienced). I also have maintained a special interest in young people with cancer and making the transition from the paediatric hospital to the adult hospital a better one.

You have also been involved in the development of cancer drugs?

I did a PhD in new cancer drugs that has contributed to a new drug (Venetoclax) for certain types of leukaemia being available for patients in Australia and worldwide. For this, I received the Premier’s Award for Health and Medical Research and the L’Oréal for Women in Science Award. I am also the chair of the cancer education and training committee of the Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre and a federal Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee member.

What is life like for you in 2020?

I have been fortunate to have two children, an 11 year old boy and 9 year old girl and to now be in good health.

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