‘World just lost on the best’

Ben Wolford

Kent State student loses third fight against leukemia

Sarah Mase missed the phone call from her brother, Dominick, on the day of his stem cell transplant. The voice message was one of the last things he said to her.

“It’s like a blood transfusion. It’s very simple,” she said. “And he just told me what time everything was going to happen and how he was feeling. The most important thing he said was, ‘No worries. I’m OK. No worries.'”

Dominick was always reassuring the people close to him. He didn’t want the leukemia that had come on and off since high school to define him. He didn’t want cancer to be what you thought of when you saw him.

“Dom Mase had us all fooled,” one of his friends told Sarah.

He did.

He kept everyone confident as long as he could – nearly seven years. He died Monday.

Jeremy Gregorek: Nothin but love kid. Glad i was able to call you a friend. I’ll miss you brother. World just lost on the best.

Dominick came to Kent State from Columbus State Community College to study fashion merchandising. He had heard good things about the program.

“He was interested at times in becoming a radiologist or perhaps a physical therapist, something that could make him feel like he was proactive or that he could help other people who were in his situation,” Sarah said. “But as time grew on, he spent a lot of time in the hospital, and he didn’t really want to spend any more time in a medical setting.”

Instead he decided to make a career out of his love for clothes.

“He was a snappy dresser,” Sarah said.

But last fall the leukemia, a form of cancer that affects bone marrow, came back a third time and in an even more aggressive form.

“Each time it came back it was more and more aggressive,” Sarah said. “It was a slightly different form.”

At 16, Dominick was diagnosed with acute lymphocytic leukemia and treated with chemotherapy, which limits the multiplication of cells, and radiation therapy, which damages the DNA in cells and stops them from reproducing.

It worked for a while, but the leukemia came back.

At 20, Dominick was diagnosed with acute myelogenous leukemia, a form that mostly affects adults. He received chemotherapy and radiation therapy again, but this time doctors added a bone marrow transplant.

That seemed to clear things up, but then when he was 22 and enrolled in a good school, the AML resurfaced in a more severe variant. This time they pulled even more stops: chemotherapy, intense radiation therapy and a stem cell transplant.

“Chemo and radiation are essentially poisons,” Sarah said. “I call it hitting reset. You have to strip your body down to its frame almost … and then you start all over again and hope that you cleared out everything bad.”

Two tries takes its toll. But Dominick tried again.

Katie Kuehn: wheat thins, mountain dew and euchre…I hope they have the best things on earth where you are, buddy. rest in peace, friend.

Gina Hatfield and Brooke Parr, seniors at Capital University, asked Dominick for a lighter when they all were attending Columbus State. “He chatted us up,” Hatfield said, and they were best friends ever since.

They had classes together, too. One was a speech class, and one day Dominick gave a presentation about his illness.

“Only Brooke and I knew in that class, but the other kids just looked at him like, ‘How is this kid so happy all the time? He’s making everybody laugh. He’s the class clown,'” Hatfield said. “And then he’s up there giving out his personal life and telling us he has leukemia. They never saw that coming.”

That’s how Dominick wanted it to be.

“A lot of times I think we forgot he was sick,” Parr said.

It was easy to do. “Kickin cancer’s ass” is about halfway down Dominick’s list of interests on his Facebook page – just one thing he liked to do, right next to “reading” and “meeting cool people.”

“We were always together, always hanging out,” Hatfield said. “He was just so much fun to be around.”

They loved the same type of music. Hatfield remembers the Green Day concert they saw in 2004. And she remembers Wednesday nights.

“We had a thing for the show ‘Lost,'” she said. “Every Wednesday we would get together and watch that show.”

And he looked out for the people he cared for.

Dominick and Parr were at a party, and she was about to leave with a guy she met.

“Dominick called, and he was like, ‘Brooke, don’t do it,’ and he hung up,” she said. “I should have listened to him because it was the worst relationship ever.”

Dominick knew something about life that Sarah said she’s still learning from her younger brother.

“One of the best lessons I’m still learning from Dom is, be more impulsive,” she said. “Be a little less worried about the future and a bit more interested in right now.”

Mark Ruper: thank you for all the laughs and good times. I don’t know what else to say but I love you 🙂 – Dominick Mase’s Facebook wall

Contact campus editor Ben Wolford at [email protected].