Brock's Battle: Beating Hodgkin's lymphoma
Alexandria's Brock Wood still looks the part of a three-sport athlete.
He still features an athletic build that would easily let him slip back into football pads and fit right in to the outside linebacker and running back positions that he manned for the Cardinals as a team captain in 2011.
To see him now, one would never know that he recently went through months of chemotherapy and radiation to beat Hodgkin's lymphoma, a cancer of the lymphatic system, at the age of 19.
The only thing the chemotherapy took from him was his hair, but that too has returned. One thing it never stole was his spirit or the upbeat attitude that friends and family have always known him by.
"I knew I was going to beat it," Wood said. "I didn't really have down moments. I give credit to my faith. Three days after I was told I had Hodgkin's lymphoma, I was ready. I didn't care if I was going to die in a week, if I was going to die in a month or if I was going to have the rest of my life. I was going to live my normal life."
a SCARE IN THE MOUNTAINS
That's exactly what Wood was doing while on an elk hunt in the Colorado Rockies near the town of Steamboat Springs, Colorado last October. He was in the fourth day of a hunt with his dad, Dan, and his uncle and cousin, Hunter and Bryant Briard, when Bryant shot the first bull elk of his life.
Wood agreed to walk back to the truck, about a five-mile hike from where the elk was shot, to retrieve the packs that they would carry the meat out in. He experienced some chest pains on the way there but thought it was simply the product of being at an elevation of around 9,000 feet.
Wood got the packs and was almost a quarter mile away from where the rest of his hunting party was when a pain hit him that was so severe that it knocked him to the ground. The entire left side of his body went numb. With little cell-phone reception, he had no choice but to make his way back to his family, where he immediately fell down in agony once he got to them.
The pains came every two minutes and lasted about 30 seconds. The initial fear was that Brock was having a heart attack. It was one of the few times he ever saw his dad tear up. Dan called it the toughest day he's ever been through and admitted that he was preparing for his youngest son to die with not much he could do in the mountains.
"My dad was about to call an emergency helicopter and I grabbed the phone from him and hung it up," Wood said. "I go, 'Dad, I would honestly rather die out here than in a helicopter.' It was a tough situation, but I'm definitely glad that happened so they could bring me in to a hospital to be able to see the real consequences."
FINALLY, AN ANSWER
The pain started diminishing after about three hours. Slowly but surely, they made their way out of the woods and to the emergency room at the hospital in Steamboat Springs.
Wood said his doctors still don't know what triggered the pain that day, but it helped find the answer to a question the family had been asking for a long time. Brock had felt fatigued and sick for months before that. He missed more than 50 days of school during his senior year, but test after test revealed no definitive answers as to why.
It wasn't until they ran a CT scan at the hospital in Colorado that they discovered his lymph nodes were enlarged, which helped lead to his diagnosis. The Woods talked things over with Brock's doctor in Alexandria, where they were assured this was treatable.
From there, he attacked his recovery with one mindset. It wasn't if he would beat cancer, it was simply a matter of when.
"That wasn't that surprising," longtime friend Dan Anderson said. "I heard the news, and he's like, 'Well, once I beat it, we're going to do this and this and this.' There was no doubt. He's always positive, hopping around, tons of energy, hyper. Once you hear him being so positive, I wasn't worried about him."
The Woods started his treatment at the Mayo Clinic in mid-November. He was already asking the nurses to speed up the process during his first round of chemo. Mentally, he was ready to tackle this as fast as possible. Physically, his body reminded him that it wouldn't always be easy.
His attitude never wavered. He says it was probably harder on his mom, Juanita, and his dad as they watched their son go through the recovery process.
"It was really tough," his dad said. "We tried to remain as upbeat as possible. He was fantastically upbeat. It's tough when you're going through chemo. There are two older guys who teach you how to play cribbage and by the time you're done with chemo after a few months, one of your partners is dead. I don't know how he kept so upbeat, but we tried to be there for him."
Wood did exactly like he said he would do. He beat the disease as he became a survivor of Hodgkin's lymphoma on March 29 of this year. In his eyes, the almost five months it took him to become cancer free was nothing compared to a lot of the battles that others go through to beat cancer.
"One thing I learned from my treatment is that everyone has a story," Wood said. "I beat cancer so simple. I got it done in a few months and not everybody is as blessed as I was."
That's why he was so eager to organize a cause that would help those people who are not as fortunate as he was.
See part two of this series, Paddling with a Purpose, in Friday's issue of the Echo Press.