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Brock Wood and friend Jesse Hacker set off from Itasca State Park Monday morning on a Hodgkin’s lymphoma fundraising trip. (Jean Ruzicka / Enterprise)

Cancer survivor begins Paddle4Kins kayaking journey

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When Brock Wood, 19 of Alexandria, was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma in November, he set his sights not only on conquering cancer but mastering the Mighty Mississippi – aboard a kayak.

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“That’s what kept him going,” Juanita Wood said of her son, who was told he was cancer-free a month ago. “He was on a mission. He never gave it a second thought.”

Monday, Wood set off from Itasca State Park with “high school buddy” Jesse Hacker, 20, friends and family bidding them farewell as they rounded the first bend on their journey to New Orleans.

They row with a mission. ­Their faith-based Paddle4Kins’ (Hodgkin’s) goal is to raise $100,000 to fund research and raise awareness of the disease.

Wood, who’d missed 50 days of school during his senior year, suffered from an ongoing sore throat and fatigue. Doctors were unable to determine the cause. But while elk hunting in Colorado with family last fall, he suffered a strong pain in his chest.

He returned to Minnesota where he learned of his diagnosis at the Mayo Clinic in November, when he began treatment.

A month ago, doctors told him his scan was one of the best they’d seen. He is cancer free.

And another journey was about to begin.

While their voyage down the Big River will mirror that of early explorers ­– replete with camping outdoors and portaging – their posting of daily videos and the aid of underwater “pedals” in their kayak reflect modern technology. (The pedals enable them to travel at about 7 mph, vs. 5.)

And Hacker has compiled a set of maps of the river and its tributaries second to none.

They hope to arrive in New Orleans in 60 days.

To learn of Wood’s story leading up to the journey, see daily videos of their adventures or to donate, go to www.paddle4kins.org.

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