Mason Nettleton, a 7-year-old from Covington, battled kidney cancer at just 4 years old by adopting a “superhero attitude” and was recently selected to serve as Seattle’s “Superhero for a Day” in conjunction with a special premier of the new Spider-Man: Homecoming movie.
Three years ago, when the Nettleton’s were on a family vacation, Mason called his mom into the bathroom.
“He said, ‘Mommy, you have to see it,'” Briana Nettleton, Mason’s mom, said. “‘I have Spider-Man potty,’ meaning he had blood in his urine.”
They took him to urgent care. Doctors found nothing wrong with him, but suggested he have some blood work done. Around 10 a.m. the next morning he started screaming in pain and began vomiting blood. After being rushed to the emergency room, doctors found a tumor in his kidney. A few days later, Mason had surgery to remove his kidney and started the first round of his weekly, six-month chemotherapy treatments.
Superheroes became a common theme during his treatment, Nettleton said. When they went to the emergency room, Mason’s grandmother brought the Captain America costume he’d been wanting, and there are pictures of him having his blood pressure taken with him wearing the costume. Mason even had a sign in his room with the “Rules of Superheroes” listed: Be brave, be kind to others, and use powers for good, Nettleton said.
When Sony Pictures approached Entertainment Correspondent Scott Carty with the idea to hold a community contest for a local superhero, Carty said he had the perfect person in mind. He told them about Mason and how he’d met him during a volunteer event for Seattle Children’s Hospital. Mason was a spokesperson for the event and shared his story with Carty.
“After hearing that, I knew this was a match made in heaven,” Carty said.
Along with a private pre-release screening of Spider-Man Homecoming, the day also included a five-star stay at the Four Seasons Hotel in Seattle, a mocktail happy hour in Spider-Man suits at the Goldfinch Tavern, VIP transportation provided by Audi Seattle, a visit to the Space Needle, a Seattle Mariners on-field visit to batting practice before the game against Philadelphia, and Spider-Man cupcakes by Trophy Cupcakes.
“Oh my goodness, he (was) so excited,” Nettleton said. “He didn’t even know half of what’s in store for him. He’s really excited that he gets to see the movie before everyone else.”
Roughly a year after Mason was diagnosed with cancer, his family started the nonprofit foundation Footprints of Fight, which provides families whose children have cancer with a professional house cleaner, gas cards, grocery cards, AAA memberships, and sometimes babysitting. Nettleton said when Mason was going through treatment, someone arranged professional cleaning services for them. It’s those little things that help families get through these difficult times.
Mason has just two more years before he’ll be considered cancer free, but there’s been no sign of it returning in the three years since his kidney was removed.
“Today he’s an animal,” Nettleton laughed. “We can’t keep him down. I jokingly say that he has ‘no off-switch,’ but that’s probably what pushed him through the cancer.”
Even when he was undergoing treatment, he’d play soccer or basketball with his teammates with a tube in his nose.
“We let him be a kid, and I think that’s part of what kept his spirits high and kept him going. … He embodied just hope to me,” she said. “So many other people have contacted me and said they’re going through cancer and say, ‘I’m going to fight like Mason.’”
To virtually tag along with Mason, follow #SuperheroMason on social media.