At 27 years old, you expect life changes to occur as you near the end of one decade and look forward to the next. For some, those changes include marriage, birth of a child, job promotions or building a house. For Heather Wood, a mathematics instructor on the Holmes Community College Grenada Campus, it was being diagnosed with breast cancer.
"It was October of 2013, and I just happened to find a knot on my breast," Wood said. "When I first spoke with the doctor, he asked her if the lump was the size of a small pea. When I told him it was actually the size of a large grape, he told me to come in for an appointment as soon as I could."
A week later, an ultrasound and biopsy revealed that Wood had Stage II Invasive Ductal Carcinoma. She underwent treatment at Jackson Oncology which included eight rounds of chemotherapy, a double mastectomy and reconstruction and then four more rounds of chemo.
"The diagnosis was such a surprise because cancer does not run in my family," Wood said. "My whole family was shocked, especially since I was only 27."
To help raise awareness for breast cancer, the Holmes Grenada Campus is having a "Pink Out Day" on Tuesday, Oct. 24. Faculty, staff and students will wear their pink in honor or in memory of a loved one who has battled this disease.
A native of Grenada, Wood has been a part of the Holmes family since 2004. From 2004-2006, she was a student on the Holmes Goodman Campus, where she was active in student life. Wood was an Ambassador, a member of Phi Theta Kappa and captain of the cheerleading squad. After graduating from Holmes, she earned a bachelor's and master's from Mississippi State University and worked at East Mississippi Community College for three years.
Today, Wood teaches on the Grenada Campus and also teaches tumbling classes at Charisma Dance Company. She and her husband have three labs whom she refers to as "our children," and are expecting a baby girl, Laura Felicity, in December.
Wood currently visits her oncologist every four to six months for check-ups. She encourages women to do self-examinations and get their regular check-ups.
"The life experience was neat," Wood said. "I got to experience things most people don't experience like hair loss. The people you meet that you wouldn't have met. Even the painful experiences are still experiences. They put me in menopause. I got to feel what it's like to go in and out of menopause. I could relate to older people and the daily struggle they have trying to get around. One of my chemo drugs affected my nerves. Sometimes it was like I was an 80-year-old woman trying to get around. My hands would shake and my muscles wouldn't always contract."
Despite the hardships Wood endured, she also felt like this journey made her stronger and strengthened her spirituality in a powerful way.
"I felt like God chose me out of my three other sisters to be the one to have this
experience. It was an honor that He knew I was strong enough to handle it. I am not
saying God gave me cancer, but He allowed it to happen. If you say God didn't allow
it then you are essentially saying God wasn't powerful enough to stop it. Overall,
I thought the cancer process was a great one."
IN THIS PHOTO: Pictured is Heather Wood with her husband, James.