(ran South edition of Pasco Times)
While most of her friends and schoolmates are making plans for homecoming, prom and college, 17-year-old Ashley Wood has one goal: just graduate with her friends.
As modest as that goal sounds, it's a big challenge for the Brooksville teen who is undergoing radiation and treatment for a life-threatening cancer that beset her two years ago.
When Ashley was 15, she had an malignant ovarian tumor removed. She seemed to be doing well until the past July when doctors discovered the cancer spread to her spine and liver.
Shortly after the latest discovery, Ashley was bound to a wheelchair until she received radiation. She's also had allergic reactions to chemotherapy drugs. And, when school started, Ashley wasn't able to return to Hernando High School. Instead, she is in a homebound program through the school to keep up with her studies.
Despite all the setbacks, Ashley's attitude has remained upbeat.
"Ashley has been phenomenal," said her mother, Donna Wood. "She has been handling it very well. . . . She just amazes me every day. We're so proud of her."
Ashley, her mom said, has wonderful friends who visit and call often, keeping her updated on the latest school gossip. The family also has a lot of support from the community and the Hernando County Sheriff's Office, where Donna Wood is a database analyst and Web master, and Ashley's father, Phil Wood, is a lieutenant. Donna Wood has been with the department for 16 years; her husband, for 27 years.
"The last thing we want them to worry about is money," said Sheriff Richard Nugent, who started working with Phil Wood in 1984 and has known Ashley since she was a baby. "Our hearts are just torn."
To help the Woods, Nugent and the Sheriff's Office staff are organizing several fundraising events. A golf tournament will be this Saturday at GlenLakes Golf and Country Club. Nugent said he didn't have to ask when he approached David Craighead at GlenLakes, who donated the course for the tourney at no cost.
Also, a "Guns and Hoses" flag football game will be Oct. 9 at Nature Coast Technical High School, with the "Guns" (sheriff's deputies) vs. the "Hoses" (Spring Hill firefighters). The game is sponsored by the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 164.
Another fundraiser held several weeks ago included 18 of the Sheriff's Office's male employees having their heads shaved in solidarity with Ashley, who lost her hair during chemotherapy. Ashley got to do the first couple of swipes with the razor on each head.
"It was the sweetest thing," Donna Wood said. "They (at the Sheriff's Office) have been awesome. It truly is a fraternal organization, such brotherhood. They are always standing ready to do anything and everything to help."
While Donna Wood feels they are fortunate to have a great support system and health insurance, she hopes to warn other parents.
"Who would dream their 15-year-old girl would get cancer," she asked. "Mothers need to be aware that this can happen."
The Woods are the second family within the Sheriff's Office to have a child with a life-threatening illness in the past few months.
The Sheriff's Office recently had fundraisers for Patrick Melton, the 5-year-old son of Deputy Janie Melton, who has a life-threatening growth in his chest.
"Our agency really has been pulling together to show our support," Nugent said.
Scramblers Golf Tournament, Saturday at GlenLakes Golf and Country Club, off Commercial Way in Weeki Wachee. Sponsors and golfers are needed. The cost is $50 to enter, which includes lunch at Hooter's Restaurant in Spring Hill. Lunch will be from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Nongolfers can eat for $10 per person. A shotgun start will be at 1 p.m. at the golf course. Beverages will be provided and door prizes given. Pro shop gift certificates will be awarded for $400 for first place, $200 for second place and $100 for third place teams. Auto Way Ford Lincoln Mercury will award a 2004 Ford Mustang to the first golfer to get a hole-in-one on Hole 11. Those wishing to participate in the tourney should call before 5 p.m. today at 754-6830, ext. 420.
"Guns and Hoses" Flag Football Game, 7 to 9 p.m. Oct. 9 at Nature Coast Technical High School on California Street. The game will be the "Guns" (Sheriff's Office deputies) vs. the "Hoses" (Spring Hill firefighters). Admission will be $5 per person and can be purchased at the gate. For information, call Deputy Tom Brooks at 754-6830, Deputy Dave Kortman at 688-5000 or firefighter Rob Miller at 540-6317.