LEXINGTON, NC – Kara Wood never wanted to be a teacher.
“I have a Bachelor’s in English. I wanted to be an editor,” said Kara. “One of my former teachers was a principal and he gave me an opportunity to try to teach. I did not choose teaching and found out it was where I was meant to be.”
She ventured into the world of education in 2000 and soon landed an important role as an English teacher at West Davidson High School.
“Teenagers get a bad rap but I have good kids,” said Kara.
The 38-year old is a married mom of four and a volleyball coach. In 2016, Kara was named Teacher of the Year at her school.
“I hated English until I had Mrs. Wood as a teacher,” said 15-year-old Adam Wright. “She could see it through the students. She knew how to tell you in a way that you would understand it.”
In late 2016, Kara found herself becoming weaker, tired and started seeing a physician. An unexplained illness resulted in her having a blood transfusion the following February.
“We thought it was a stomach ulcer but later found out it was colon cancer. It was very fast.”
In early March, she told her principal and students about the diagnosis, four days before she had surgery to remove some of her colon, small intestines and gall bladder.
“The students handled it better than I did and the kids did pretty well. That evening I had flowers on the porch. They brought in a cake with a colon cancer ribbon.” Kara explained.
Her former student, Wright added, “Insane. It was sad. Very sad.”
Her youngest son, Samuel, a well-spoken 8-year-old remembered finding out about his mom’s illness.
“It really frightened me and really made me scared and made me think about how is this going to affect my life? How is this going to affect what happens to mom and my family?
“You’re always hearing about cancer and people being diagnosed with it and not being able to come back to their families anymore,” her oldest son, William added.
It wasn’t until after the five-hour surgery that Wood knew the full scope of what she was dealing with.
“We didn’t know what stage it was at the time, but it turns out it was stage 1. They think it’s related to a gene mutation they found that’s really not well known.”
The gene, NDN, is so rare, Kara is the only patient her oncologist is currently treating. The gene places her at higher risk for other cancers. She still has issues, two months later, with an upset stomach and drowsiness.
But, she’s looking on the bright side. She is with her family and kids for Mother’s Day. And two days before the holiday, several of her students showed up to cook her dinner.
“I like this. It’s cool being nice and a good person,” laughed Wright.
As the students prepared dinner for “Mrs. Wood”, they shared stories, nearly broke her dishwasher and made their favorite teacher laugh. For a moment, she managed to forget the word, cancer.
“My oncologist at Forsyth walked in a said something like, I’m a cancer survivor. I think of it like, I’ve beaten this round and if there’s another round, then I’ll be prepared for it.”
Her youngest daughter, Lillian added she’s ready to see Kara regain her strength and just be…mom.
“Being able to go outside and play in a park again without her having to stop, sit down. Be able to go back to normal, I guess.”
Kara is out for the rest of the school year, but doctors tell her she is expected to feel “close to herself” by August.