Devin Wood felt a lump in his neck in January. When antibiotics didn’t help and the fluid-filled cyst grew, he and his wife, Tami, had no time to think what that could mean. There was a more immediate crisis.
Their son, Blake, 8, passed out in class at Sunnycrest Elementary. “He wasn’t moving,” Tami says. “It was very scary.”
Twice more Blake was rushed from school to intensive care, where he was diagnosed with epilepsy. One of those times was in March just hours after Devin underwent a needle biopsy. Results were benign. In April, the tumor was removed. “A week later the pathology came back cancer of tongue,” Tami says softly. “They wouldn’t be able to tell us any more for a week.”
The couple left two days later to celebrate their 20th anniversary. The day they returned, Devin had more tests. The cancer was highly advanced and on the move. Tami’s voice cracks as she says, “He got the news that day all by himself.”
He could no longer work. Insurance through his employer, Idearc Media, paid for most of his treatments and provided short-term disability payments of $1,300 a month which will stop this month.
Devin has had all the chemotherapy and radiation possible. Because cancer flourishes in acidity, he is undergoing treatment to make his body more alkaline. “It’s expensive,” Tami says, “but when you have cancer, you want to do everything you can.”
It may be awhile before Devin knows whether the cancer is gone. He has lost 70 pounds and is virtually bedridden. He struggles with not being able to be the breadwinner and says, “One of the toughest things is that it’s emotionally hard on the kids.”
Friends and family are helping. Tami’s parents are here from Oregon. Devin’s family does what it can. Elim Lutheran Church Mothers of Preschoolers group and the Woods’ church, Adventure Church of Everett, continue to provide meals.
Lake Stevens firefighters Eric Jones and Jerry Aamold have also helped. “It hit both of us,” Jones says. “We both have three kids. We thought about how difficult it is to have two serious medical problems in one family, and about a kid’s point of view having Dad sick. It was pretty emotional for us.”
The firefighters association and its union gave the Woods a trip to Disneyland for whenever the family can go. “It’s nice to have that to look forward to,” Tami says.
Tami makes family life as normal as possible. Brielle, 3, plays with her new kitty. The intelligent sparkle is back in Blake’s eyes. Brittanee, 11, aware of the circumstances, does all she can to help. Devin marvels at his wife. “I always knew Tami was a strong woman,” he says, “but I never knew how strong until all this happened.”
A woman of deep faith, Tami admits, “At times there are hard, sobbing moments. Without God, our friends and family, we couldn’t get through this.”
Friend Kathy Holder realized the family needs the community’s help and started a fundraising campaign. “I wanted to help,” she says, “I knew others would, too.” Friends and neighbors are actively planning events to help with past and ongoing medical bills, living expenses and the needs of three growing children.
Sunnycrest has adopted the family in a school-wide “Giraffe Project.” Principal Tim Haines explains. “We have taught our students to stick out our necks to help others, This is an opportunity to do that in our own school. There has been a lot of enthusiasm. Donations are already coming into the office.”
“It’s amazing to watch so many pulling together,” says Devin’s sister, Sherry Ord from her home in Virginia. “I can’t tell you what it means to me to know that somebody loves my brother like I do.”
Fundraising efforts include a Jingle Bell Jog for the Devin Wood Family December 12th. There will be sponsored runners and walkers, raffles, food and entertainment.
More information will be available soon. In the meantime, collection jars are being distributed throughout the community.
Donations can also be made to the Wood Family Benefit Fund at any Wells Fargo Bank or online at www.caringbridge.org/visit/devinwood or www.devinwood.blogspot.com.