Through a mask attached to a ventilator, surrounded by his family and in the arms of his father, Brayden Wood looked up and said: "It's okay Dad, I'm not going anywhere."

The 17-year-old signalled to his dad that he was okay and then slipped away.

Even then, Brayden, nicknamed Boo, was more worried about others than what was happening to him.

"That's just Boo," his father, Brendyn Wood, said.

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Brayden was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia 18 months ago.

After the diagnosis he travelled regularly between Rotorua, to be close to family, and Auckland's Starship hospital for specialised care and countless treatments.

He died two weeks ago on May 8, leaving his family devastated and in disbelief.

Whether it was on a rugby field, reeling in fish after fish, hunting, or playing the Game of Life, Brayden played a hard game but did so with compassion and a smile.

The only thing bigger than his determination to live was his love of other people - and their love of him, his mother, Elizabeth Lee, told the Rotorua Daily Post.

What Brayden learned on the rugby field playing for Whakarewarewa, Rotorua Boys' High and then in Wellington, where his dad lives, shaped his courage going into his battle with cancer, Lee said. His relentless determination saw him fight to his last breath.

"He never acknowledged he was going to die," Lee said, remembering her son's immeasurable strength.

"I miss my son."

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Brayden's mum, Elizabeth Lee, says he had a beautiful smile and a beautiful heart. Photo / File
Brayden's mum, Elizabeth Lee, says he had a beautiful smile and a beautiful heart. Photo / File

Brayden's death was a surprise.

"Nobody really saw what happened coming," his father said.

"He wanted everyone to know he'd beaten cancer, the cancer was gone."

Doctors had been confident his mother was a rare match for his bone marrow and Brayden had the transplant in late February.

But a fungal infection he had been fighting while receiving chemotherapy flared up.

He had been in Starship Hospital for six weeks when his father travelled up after an x-ray showed a shadow on his lungs.

Brayden Wood during his JAB Rugby days, playing for Whakarewarewa. Photo / Supplied
Brayden Wood during his JAB Rugby days, playing for Whakarewarewa. Photo / Supplied

"We weren't planning to have a funeral, we were planning on going up there, getting him through another hurdle and coming home.

"As far as we knew, we were headed for the finish line."

The day before Brayden died was his father's 50th birthday. His mother's birthday was two days before that.

Brayden still managed to get a nurse to help him make a card for his father and get him some chocolate.

"That's just Boo," Wood said.

"I think he had a feeling things weren't good but he kept fighting and fighting."

The summer leading up to Brayden's sudden death there had been a glimmer of life returning to normal. He had got his driver's licence, celebrated his 17th birthday and gone to Australia to see his grandfather before Christmas.

The last fish Brayden Wood, 17, caught in Russell over the summer. Photo / Supplied
The last fish Brayden Wood, 17, caught in Russell over the summer. Photo / Supplied

He spent summer in his favourite place - Russell in Northland - spending 40 days with family, fishing and diving.

"He slayed fish, he caught fish every day," Wood said.

He would joke his cancer treatment had left him a teenager in the body of an 80-year-old. But he still got up at 5am each summer day to go fishing.

Russell will be Brayden's final resting place.

He yearned to be back on the rugby field so would act as a personal trainer for his Uncle Craig, exercising in whatever way he could.

"That kid just wanted to keep going," Wood said.

After the best summer, Brayden returned to Paraparaumu with his father and his partner and went to school.

He was proud of his hair, which had grown back curly, and excited to finally get back to school.

On an early hunting trip with his father, Brayden Wood was adamant in carrying the antlers. Photo / Supplied
On an early hunting trip with his father, Brayden Wood was adamant in carrying the antlers. Photo / Supplied

Last year, a Givealittle page was set up to fund Sativex, a drug which costs $1000 a month. Wood said it had given Brayden strength and helped him recover from his chemotherapy.

It did a great job helping with the pain and negative side effects of the treatment he'd had.

Despite "horrible stuff happening to him" through his treatment, he always had a smile, and always thanked the nurses, despite the pain he was in, Wood said.

"That's just Boo."

"Everyone who knew him, loved him," both parents said.

Wood had been visiting Brayden at the hospital for four days when Brayden started having breathing difficulties, "like he was continually running a marathon".

"He put up one hell of a fight."

He was still conscious and coherent, despite the amount of oxygen he received usually making people incoherent.

"He had his whiteboard and he was still communicating, he was smiling. He was squeezing my hand so hard it was like he was going to break my hand.

Brayden was stoked to fly in the helicopter for urgent treatment. Photo / Supplied
Brayden was stoked to fly in the helicopter for urgent treatment. Photo / Supplied

"He was telling everyone how much he loved them," Wood said through tears.

He held both his parents' hands, looking at them, and let them know he was okay.

Brayden died in Wood's arms, his body unable to handle what it had been through for the last 18 months. His service was held at Osborne Funeral Home last week.

"The doctors did everything they could ... His body was dying around him."

Wood said it was as though Brayden's new immune system was beginning to kick in, which inflamed the tissue in his lungs. It was described to him as pneumonia combined with an infection that did not allow oxygen to get into his bloodstream and other organs.

A Starship Children's Health spokeswoman said the nature of acute lymphoblastic leukemia and the associated required therapy could be unpredictable.

"We have great sympathy for the family of Brayden Wood and send them our condolences."

Wood later found a voicemail Brayden had left, talking about how terrified he was and how much he wanted to keep living his normal life.

"As brave as he was, he was scared.

"He talked about it but never really showed how scared he was. He just put on a brave face and made sure everybody else was okay.

"That's just Boo."