Life isn’t always easy. Roy Wood of Hannibal will be one of the first to remind you of that...
Life isn’t always easy. Roy Wood of Hannibal will be one of the first to remind you of that, whether you catch up with him at the gas station, a coffee shop, or at Bayview Campgrounds north of town, which he operates alongside his wife, Sherry.
Roy was a featured speaker during a recent open house at the Jim Cary Cancer Center, held in conjunction with the infrastructure construction project under way in preparation for a new linear accelerator. As a prostate cancer survivor, he graciously shares the story of recovery with anyone who will take the time to listen.
He is one of the 5,500 cancer patients who have received treatment at this center since its opening 10 years ago. When the linear accelerator is in full operation later this year, radiation therapy will be delivered much quicker and more precisely than it was when Roy received treatment last year. While knowing that he won’t benefit from the new accelerator, he wants others to know and appreciate the cancer center and the staff which facilitated his recovery from the disease which has a name that no patient wants to hear: Cancer.
To fully understand the optimistic outlook on life that Roy carries on his shoulders today requires some background into his life.
A long-time resident of the Hannibal area, he said, “I met my wife at a drive-in restaurant. It used to be the Checkered Flag out on Route W. There were three little businesses out there, on the right-hand side of the road. A buddy, Fred York, and I went out there, and a little girl came out to wait on us. When she came out the door, I told Fred, ‘that’s going to be my wife.’ We had a long relationship. Nine days. I was 21 and she just turned 17. We had to get permission from Harvey Mason (Hannibal High School principal) to get married. They didn’t allow married girls to go to high school. She had two weeks to go until graduation.” They married May 13, 1956.
The couple became parents to three sons and a daughter. “We have been blessed with 13 grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren,” Roy said.
Of course, as in most long-term marriages, there have been bumps along the road.
Some are bigger than others.
“Six years ago, we lost Rodney,” Roy said, referring to their son who was murdered on Broadway in August 2008, when he stopped to aid a woman calling for help.
Now, another son has a terminal brain tumor. “He was an executive with the Apple Company,” Roy said, pausing as tears welled in his eyes. “He gets all upset because he can’t use his computer.”
Like many men his age, Roy underwent a routine colonoscopy. The VA clinic in Quincy, Ill., notified Roy that he had an enlarged prostate. Doctors there recommended he go to the VA hospital in Iowa City for treatment.
“My wife and I said no to Iowa City. I went to Dr. Cockrell. He ran tests, and my PSA was 9. It was just getting started, but it was cancerous. I enrolled over here” at the Cary Cancer Center. “Why go out of town when we have a place like this,” he asked.
He underwent 44 treatments. “The worst thing was that I had to drink two full bottles of water to fill my bladder before each treatment. (The other patients and I) had a lot of fun about that.” Each radiation treatment took from 15 to 20 minutes before he was allowed to empty his bladder.
Treatments continued five days a week. “I went back for my PSA, and it was under 1 percent, 0.01.
“I haven’t run into anyone in this organization that I would like to exchange. I met a lot of nice people.”
Roy, a U.S. Navy veteran, had an incentive to finish the treatments in a timely manner. He wanted to be able to participate in the Honor Flight scheduled for Sept. 27, 2013.
“We got up to Quincy’s John Wood Community College at 12 o’clock,” he said. The bus left for St. Louis at 1:30 a.m. They boarded the airplane for the flight to this nation’s capitol. Upon landing, “They had two water trucks shooting water up over the plane, like a salute,” he said.
The most impressive site he saw was the Navy memorial.
Forty-three years ago, Roy and his wife took over operation of Bayview Campgrounds. While some people will say that they started a business on a nickel, “We started with two pennies. LP gas is $1.95 a gallon now. It was 12 cents a gallon then, and we had a hard time paying for that. We had a whole bunch of little cabins and we would fix them up and rent them for a year.” They found themselves spending what they were paid for a year’s rental to fix up the cabins and get them ready to rent again.
It was hard for Roy and his wife to see a profit doing that. “Then someone wanted to store their trailer down by one of the cabins. Finally, we got rid of all the cabins and converted Bayview to a trailer park.” Today, they have 160 year-round leases and all are full. They also have five overnight sites for people traveling with their campers. “Back in the ‘70s and ‘80s you had 50 or 60 trailers” stopping overnight, every day. “Now tourist traffic has almost come to a stop. A lot of (people traveling in motor homes) are staying on the Walmart parking lots. It used it bother me,” he said, but not any more. “We seldom fill up” the five overnight rental spaces, except on holiday weekends.
The origins of
“The only history I have is what has been passed on to me. My mother’s father was a worker in the bay bottoms,” Roy said, “working for all of the farmers up there.”
The story goes that the farmers in the area gave the land where the campground is today to Roy’s grandfather – Austin Parker (A.P.) Terry - in exchange for work.
“He took it and built a non-alcoholic night club, the Chesterfield Club. He then built a lot of cabin for the Boy Scouts.
“My mother and dad – Margaret Alice and Samuel Wilson Wood - bought the property from Grandpa Terry’s heirs. When Mom and Dad bought the ground they started with the cabins. When Dad died, my brothers and sisters – none of them wanted it. Mother said, ‘I’m going to give it away, I guess.’”
“We will take it,” he told his mother. Since that time, Sherry and Roy have operated the business themselves. “We’ve been at it for 43 years.”
Roy admits that he sometimes has trouble remaining positive, when faced with life’s obstacles.
“We have had a lot of problems,” Roy said, “and I have my moments. But when there are hurdles to be jumped, we just jump them. You can’t go around them,” he said.