Immeasurable strength: ‘He never acknowledged he was going to die’
Family devastated after brave son Brayden Wood, 17, loses 18-month cancer battle
Through a mask attached to a ventilator, surrounded by his family and in the arms of his father, Brayden Wood looked up and said: “It’s okay dad, I’m not going anywhere.” The 17 year old signalled to his father he was okay and then slipped away.
Even then, Brayden, nicknamed Boo, was more worried about others than what was happening to him.
“That’s just Boo,” his father, Brendyn Wood, said.
Brayden was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia 18 months ago.
After the diagnosis he travelled regularly between Rotorua, to be close to family, and Auckland’s Starship hospital for specialised care and countless treatments.
He died on May 8, leaving his family devastated and in disbelief.
Whether it was on a rugby field, reeling in fish after fish, hunting, or playing the Game of Life, Brayden played a hard game but did so with compassion and a smile.
The only thing bigger than his determination to live was his love of other people — and their love of him, his mother, Elizabeth Lee, told the Rotorua Daily Post.
What Brayden learned on the rugby field playing for Whakarewarewa, Rotorua Boys’ High and then in Wellington, where his dad lives, shaped his courage going into his battle with cancer, Lee said.
His relentless determination saw him fight to his last breath.
“He never acknowledged he was going to die,” Lee said, remembering her son’s immeasurable strength. “I miss my son.”
Brayden’s death was a surprise. “Nobody really saw what happened coming,” his father said.
“He wanted everyone to know he’d beaten cancer, the cancer was gone.”
Doctors had been confident his mother was a rare match for his bone marrow and Brayden had the transplant in late February.
But a fungal infection he had been fighting while receiving chemotherapy flared up.
He had been in Starship for six weeks when his father travelled up after an X-ray showed a shadow on his lungs.
“We weren’t planning to have a funeral, we were planning on going up there, getting him through another hurdle and coming home.
“As far as we knew, we were headed for the finish line.”
The day before Brayden died was his father’s 50th birthday. His mother’s birthday was two days before that.
Brayden still managed to get a nurse to help him make a card for his father and get him some chocolate. “That’s just Boo,” Wood said. “I think he had a feeling things weren’t good but he kept fighting and fighting.”
The summer leading up to Brayden’s sudden death had been a glimmer of life returning to normal. He had got his driver’s licence, celebrated his 17th birthday and gone