Just the thought of rappelling down the 50-story Manchester Grand Hyatt Hotel in downtown San Diego is enough to terrify many people. For Cathy Wood, the descent was simply a reminder of her own experience after being diagnosed with a brain tumor.
“It’s exactly what you go through,” says Wood, manager of clinical oncology research at Sharp HealthCare. “You’ve just got to take that leap and hope for the best. Whatever happens, happens.”
Wood was one of 70 “edgers” who participated in “Over the Edge for Brain Cancer” in early December 2017. The annual event, organized by ABC2 (Accelerate Brain Cancer Cure), raises funds for brain cancer research. Wood rappelled alongside her colleague Taya Wallis, program manager for Advanced Illness Management at Sharp Memorial Hospital. Together, their two-member team, “Team Catch Me,” raised $3,500 for the organization.
In early January 2016, Wood felt a terrible headache that wouldn’t go away. At first, she attributed it to sinus irritation from traveling over the holidays. After a week, the pain was so excruciating that she asked her teenage daughters to call the paramedics, who took her to Sharp Memorial.
The diagnosis: meningioma, a noncancerous tumor that forms just inside the skull on membranes covering the brain and spinal cord. Her neurosurgeon, Dr. Kenneth Ott, said the slow-growing tumor had probably been there for a decade.
After surgery, during which the tumor was successfully removed, Wood spent several days recovering at Sharp Memorial. Her circumstance felt full circle. Wood began her career as a neuro-oncology recovery nurse at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York. At Sharp, she coordinated cancer research and clinical trials, with a heavy focus on brain cancer.
“I was thankful I knew what to expect and what to do,” Wood says. “I let the professionals do their job and I followed my doctor’s guidance.”
After a few months, Wood returned to work. She also joined the fundraising committee for the Laurel Amtower Cancer Institute and Neuro-Oncology Center at Sharp in hopes of helping other patients facing brain tumors.
As for this time next year, expect to see Wood climbing down the side of the Manchester Grand Hyatt once again.
“It was a challenge,” Wood says about the experience, “but challenge is what makes life meaningful.”
For the news media: To talk with Dr. Kenneth Ott about brain cancer for an upcoming story, contact Erica Carlson, senior public relations specialist, at email@example.com.