HAYWARD, Calif. (KTVU) - A college basketball player at Cal State East Bay is back on the court after being sidelined while battling cancer.
Ben Wood describes himself as an optimist.
He says he knew he would play basketball again.
Wood credits his faith, family, and community with helping him beat cancer.
"Now, suiting up and on a basketball team, it doesn't get better than that," says Wood.
Thursday night's game against Chico State Universit was the first time he's back on home court since his battle with bone cancer.
"There were definitely dark times. Man, it's a long process," says Wood.
A process that started the fall of 2018. The Walnut Creek native had just transferred to Cal State East Bay from Diablo Valley College. He was recruited for his ability to shoot 3-pointers.
But lingering back pain led the team doctor to order an MRI. There was a cancerous tumor on Wood's spine.
"It was a shock. Now that I'm on the other side, it seems almost like a dream," says Wood, "Last year this time, I was in a wheelchair, bald, no hair. Couldn't hardly walk from the bed to the couch without collapsing."
Wood is the second oldest in a family of 8 boys.
His brothers shaved their heads in support.
"It made me realize just what an amazing blessing family was," says Wood.
The 23-year-old is a source of inspiration to his team. Despite six months of chemotherapy and surgery on his spine, he attended games when he could.
"One of the most amazing things about him is he's never asked why. He never felt sorry for himself," says Bryan Rooney, Cal State East Bay men's basketball coach.
Wood says this journey is worth traveling.
"I have a second life. It's like I'm a whole new person, a new-found joy. Every day is so precious. There's so much for me to do here. This is just a bump in the road," he said.
Wood plans to get married in June and graduate from college next year.
His goal is to have his own business and use the profits to fund projects to help others.