After beating back cancer, teen is kayaking the Mississippi to New Orleans

by Joni Astrup

Associate editor

Brock Wood and Dan Anderson paddled through Elk River last week on their way to the Gulf of Mexico.

Brock Wood
Brock Wood

Wood, a 19-year-old cancer survivor from Alexandria, is kayaking the length of the Mississippi to raise money for lymphoma research. Anderson hopes to make much of the trip with him.

The 2,350-mile journey, which started June 17, is expected to take about 60 days from the headwaters of the Mississippi at Itasca State Park to New Orleans. They came through Elk River on Day 10 — Wednesday, June 26 — and are covering 50 to 60 miles a day.

By July 1, Wood reported on his blog that they were in Iowa and had hit the 800-mile mark —a third of the way.

Wood was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma in November 2012. He had been elk hunting in Colorado with family members when he experienced excruciating pain in his chest. Doctors never did determine its cause, but in checking it out discovered the cancer.

Wood went through six treatments of chemotherapy and three weeks of radiation, finishing in March with good news.

“The doctor said it’s one of the best scans they’ve seen,” Wood said.

He gives credit to God for getting cured so quickly.

Wood had dreamed of kayaking the Mississippi and the cancer diagnosis gave him a cause to champion. He hopes to raise $100,000 to support the Lymphoma Research Foundation’s mission of eradicating lymphoma.

He said the trip has become easier the farther down the river they go.

“The first week was real tough, just being out of our comfort zone, being away from people,” Wood said. “It’s kind of weird when you get excited when you see a town.”

Portaging around things like dams has also been a challenge.

But along the way, people have been helpful. Some have given them food; others have donated money. At one point a boy gave them $10 that it took him over a week to earn.

“That was awesome. That definitely gave us encouragement to keep going,” Wood said.

Dan Anderson
Dan Anderson

After the trip is over, he and Anderson will resume their studies. At one point Wood planned to become a pastor, but switched gears and will go to the University of Minnesota Crookston to study crop dusting. He just got his pilot’s license and hopes to become a crop duster and do mission work in the off season.

Anderson is a finance major at North Dakota State University in Fargo, where he will be a sophomore this fall.

Wood and Anderson were classmates in Alexandria. Both are 2012 graduates.

Anderson said when Wood asked him if he wanted to be part of the trip, there was no doubt in his mind that he wanted to participate.

Wood is writing a blog as they travel down the river. Find it at