Western student battled cancer at young age
By Jason Ruckman
March 2, 2013
At the age of three, most of us are worried about little more than the next toy we’ll come across, but for Megan Wood, the worries were much heavier when she was diagnosed with one of the rarest forms of cancer.
Wood was diagnosed with cancer at two years and ten months old and is now a proud 15-year survivor.
“When we first started noticing signs something was wrong, I was seven months old. I got put in the hospital as a seven-month-old baby for a week.” Wood said.
Eventually things started happening to her, like random bleeding and bruising extremely easily at two-and-a-half years old.
“It was not like normal bruises”, Wood said, “Right away, it was black and it wasn’t from getting pushed to the ground, it could be from someone just touching me.”
Eventually, Wood’s mother knew it was time to take her to the hospital. Wood was taken to six different hospitals, but her mother’s motherly instinct took over when disagreeing with the doctors’ opinions. That’s when they ended up at the
University of Missouri’s hospital in the children’s ward, where she was finally diagnosed with a form of cancer called Rhabdomyosarcoma.
“At the time I was diagnosed with that cancer, only 18 people in the world had had it,” Wood said.
The only information the doctors really knew about the cancer was that it was an extremely aggressive form and to stand a chance of beating it, they would have to act fast.
“I took three different types of chemo, all adult doses, from the age of two years and ten months to a little bit past my third birthday.” Wood said.
Though she only relied on chemotherapy for a few months, the adult doses were overwhelmingly harsh on Wood’s body. As a three-year-old, she only weighed 24 pounds. Without enough muscle mass to carry her own weight, she was confined to a wheelchair and could not eat because of ulcers in her throat, caused by the chemo.
“I had taken five rounds of chemo before they actually took the tumor out,” Wood said.
When the tumor was removed, it was the size of a Harry Potter book, and although the tumor was gone, they put Wood back on chemo for another three rounds to fight any remaining cancer.
While all of this was going on, Wood’s mother in the same hospital, as she was pregnant with Wood’s little brother and her grandmother was in another wing, in a coma from having cancer.
“My mother went down to my grandma’s room and sat next to her bed. It was the day before they were going to take her off life support. She went down there and just broke down and said, ‘Megan needs you, you need to wake up.’” Wood said.
The next day, her grandma woke up and told Wood’s mom she could hear everything she was saying but couldn’t respond.
She said she prayed to God to let her live another two years so she could see her grandson born and her granddaughter beat cancer; Wood’s grandmother got her wish and passed away two years and three months later.
Now that Wood’s disease is in remission, she is considered to be cancer free. After overcoming all of this, she went on to be an outstanding athlete in high school in Lebanon, Missouri, competing in track and volleyball. It was at that high school where she began dating Devon Zimdars, during her sophomore year. On February 2 of this year, they got engaged on Missouri
Western’s campus after a basketball game, where Wood was a Western Mystic dancer.
“I knew I was going to get engaged, but I didn’t know when,” Wood said. “I had had a dream like eight days in a row I had gotten engaged, and in one of the dreams, I walked out and all of a sudden, there were tons of people and this sign that said ‘Will you marry me?’. And then that’s what actually happened.”
The two plan on waiting until she graduates to get married so she can focus on her major in education and eventually go back to the school that her mother has worked at for 19 years to begin teaching there herself.
After having her life threatened at such a young age, Wood says that she is grateful for being here and gets up every day wanting to live life to the fullest, and she does.
“I participate a lot with Relay for Life. I co-chaired the event as a pre-teen for three years with my mom and chaired it three more years by myself,” Wood said.
Not only has she organized Relay for Life events but she also helps collect shoes for the school her mother works at for kids who cannot afford them.
“We developed this thing and it started out with 100 pairs of shoes,” she said, “What we did was during the summer, my mom and I would go to garage sales, picking up lightly worn or brand new shoes and put all the shoes in the gym at her school. We call it ‘The Shoe Shelf’, plain and simple.”
Any child who didn’t have tennis shoes could pick up their size there and if they didn’t have it, Wood and her mother would go find it.
One may think that all that Wood has gone through may be traumatizing but she says that if she could go back and not have cancer that she wouldn’t because it has made her who she is. The only thing she wishes is for her hair to be as long and glowing blonde as it once was. Not much to ask for for someone who gives so much.