SARANAC — In December, Nate Wood was at the peak of his junior year, with big dreams for another season of varsity wrestling.
When not in class, the Section VII wrestling champ spent most of his time on the mat, practicing moves he hoped would help return him to the state championships.
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“And then he started having some issues,” his mom, Tammy, said.
As the wrestling season kicked off, Nate, 17, started having pains in his pelvic area.
Thinking he had pulled a muscle, he visited area doctors for what became a marathon of appointments, tests and misdiagnoses.
Through it all, Tammy said, Nate “continued to wrestle 22 matches, and he won 19 of the 22.
“He really pushed himself through it.”
But as the pain continued and the teen’s weight and health declined, the Woods pushed for further testing, which ultimately revealed Nate had Ewing’s sarcoma.
The rare cancer had engulfed the teen’s pelvis and spread to his lungs and spine.
News of the disease left the Woods in disbelief, since earlier testing initially ruled out cancer possibilities.
“It was just misdiagnosed,” Tammy said. “We were so happy and relieved at first — and then this.”
Since the holidays, Nate has lost 45 pounds and now spends much of his time at Fletcher Allen Health Care in Burlington for chemotherapy and frequent checkups.
He will begin his third round of chemotherapy next week.
“He’s definitely a strong one, and he has his days ... but he tries to stay busy when he’s home,” Tammy said.
With each day now focused on Nate’s health, he and his family have found strength in the overwhelming support of his classmates and the surrounding community.
As word spread about his diagnosis, students and faculty at Saranac Central High School banded together with his family, friends and neighbors to help with the rising costs of his travel and treatment expenses.
“It’s just been amazing, all the community support, and it’s what’s going to help get us through,” Tammy said.
She continues to drive her youngest son to his many appointments and stays with him during his hospitalizations, while his father, Roy, spends long hours making the daily commute before returning home to their 12-year-old daughter, Kayla.
“It’s a torn situation,” Tammy said of the travel and impact on her children, including Nate’s older siblings, Courtney, 21, and Brandon, 20.
So far, the school and Saranac community, as well as wrestling teams from neighboring schools, have held a car wash and bottle drive to help the Woods and continue to rally behind the family with bracelet sales and other fundraisers.
Now, TNA IMPACT Wrestling has thrown its support behind the determined teen.
Stars from the hit wrestling organization, seen on Spike TV, will be at the Rouses Point Civic Center from 7 to 10:30 p.m. Saturday as part of TNA’s “The Road to Slammiversary” tour.
But first, on Thursday, celebrity wrestling powerhouse Matt Morgan will spend time at Comfort Inn and Champlain Centre mall in Plattsburgh to meet local fans and sign autographs, with all donations going to help Nate’s fight.
And he will meet with Nate personally at some point during the day, according to Impact Wrestling promoter John LaHart.
For the Woods, the wrestling event is yet another heartwarming example of the love and concern for Nate.
“The support has just been wonderful, and we’re just taking it day by day,” Tammy said.
“There’s going to be hard days, but we’re going to do what we have to do to get through it.”
HOW TO HELP
IMPACT Wrestling star Matt Morgan will sign autographs near Old Navy in Champlain Centre mall in Plattsburgh from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday. Minimum donation is $5, with all funds going to Nate Wood and his family.
Earlier in the day, from 3:30 to 5:50 p.m., the public is invited to a pre-party at Comfort Inn in Plattsburgh, where IMPACT will feature giveaways, contests and sell tickets for the 7:30 p.m. Saturday show at Rouses Point Civic Center.
Also, Plattsburgh High School National Honor Society member Kayla Boise will host a Women's Self Defense Class focused on safety while walking, driving and at home. That will be held from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 23, and Tuesday, April 30, at Villari's Studios, 95 Margaret St., Plattsburgh. Cost is $10 at the door. Call 561-8592 by Monday, April 22, to reserve a spot.
And a Spaghetti Dinner Benefit and Auction is set for noon May 5 at Assumption of Mary School, Redford. It will include a Chinese auction, bake sale, 50/50, live bands, face-painting and other kids activities. Suggested donation is $7. Donations for the auction are sought. Call 293-8204.