Help for the helper

By John Carr
Posted 8/25/09

Brighton native Vicki Snider has always been a pillar of strength.     She’s the rock her friends turn to in their time of need, the glue that holds her family together. She is …

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Help for the helper


Brighton native Vicki Snider has always been a pillar of strength.

    She’s the rock her friends turn to in their time of need, the glue that holds her family together. She is the helper, never the one in need of help.

    All that changed one day in early April. While she showered, Snider detected a small bump on her breast. Some might have been dismissed as nothing. Snider knew better. She lost two aunts to breast cancer and her mother was still recovering from a brush with cervical cancer.

    She consulted her physician and made arrangements to undergo a mammogram and an ultrasound at Platte Valley Medical Center. The results were inconclusive.

    She wasn’t convinced. She also arranged for the hospital to do a biopsy the same day.         Snider spent the weekend dreading the call with biopsy results. When it came, it was the only phone her husband, Mark, had not managed to answer that day. When she picked up the phone, her oncologist broke the news to her matter of fact.

    “‘Vicki, you have cancer,’” her doctor told her.

    “At first there was denial, this couldn’t be happening to me,” Vicki recalled.

    Then there was the anger.

    “I am married. I have a husband and two small kids,” she said. “I am too young to be sick.”

    She was informed of the diagnosis April 21. It happened to be her parents’ 40th wedding anniversary. She didn’t want to spoil their celebration, so she kept the news under wraps.

    Vicki met with her specialists and they decided that a double mastectomy was the appropriate course of action. Her doctors suggested the surgery be done on her daughter, Elizabeth’s, fourth birthday. She refused.

    Vicki underwent a bilateral mastectomy May 19.

    “I knew that if I didn’t make it through this my son, Ian, at 2 years of age, would not remember his mother. Elizabeth, at 4 years of age, would have a few memories of me but most would perhaps be erased with time and other life experiences. I was horribly depressed and could not muster the positive attitude I knew I had within me.”

    She was proactive when it came to the prospect of losing her hair to chemotherapy treatments.

    “A week before my first chemo session, I decided to cut my long hair. I wanted to cut to the chase before my hair started falling out,” Vicki said. “I spent the days leading up to my haircut explaining to Elizabeth that Mommy was going to get her hair cut, because I am sick. One night we were lying in bed and she rolled over, looked me in the eyes and stroked my cheek. She said she needed to get her haircut tomorrow since she felt like she was getting sick.

    “I cried. I couldn’t help it,” she added. “I try so hard not to cry in front of the kids since I think it is really getting to them now. This time I couldn’t help it.”

    Vicki has completed her third cycle of chemotherapy. She lost most of her hair. She is undergoing reconstructive surgery to try and recreate the physical things her surgery and cancer have robbed her of. She was looking forward to completing her treatment and moving forward – the same treatment that leaves her unable to move for days afterward. The same treatment that now has her depending on others to take care of so many things she used to love to do. It is hard to pick up her kids. She really can’t walk upstairs to their bedrooms when they need her. Her doctor told her the treatment has a 90 percent recovery rate.

    It is good news, but there is always doubt.

    It is the highs and lows of all of this that has Vicki struggling to remain positive. Every time she thinks she is receiving good news, it only seems to be short-lived. After convincing her that the end of her treatment was in sight, her oncologist decided she should undergo radiation treatments. This will take another year of wondering when it will all end. Vicki is hesitant to accept her doctor’s recommendation.

    Despite all that seems to be going wrong there have been some pleasant surprises too.

    “I have really come to learn the value of good friends and, even better, family,” Vicki said. “People who I only knew casually have really stepped up. They are there to feed my family, clean my house and take care of my kids. My family has become my new backbone. They are there for me whenever I need them. They have become my life helpers.”

    Vicki looks back at the past few months and wonders “Did I do something wrong?”

    “I have always tried to be fair to everyone,” she said. “I have never knowingly tried to hurt anyone. Why is this happening to me?”

    She knows there is no answer but she wonders anyway.

    She has been unemployed for nearly a year. There are a lot of expenses. It is hard to worry about things such as bills when all of your energy is focused on fighting cancer.

    Vicki has a lot to live for and she knows it. She has a wonderful and loving husband. There are her two beautiful kids, Elizabeth and Ian. There are her parents who still live close by and, of course, there are all of her newfound friends. She intends to be around for a long time to enjoy all of the new and wonderful things that she has discovered since going from a helper to one who needs the help of others.

    On Aug. 16, Vicki’s friends are sponsoring a family friendly carnival at Brighton Park, adjacent to the Brighton Recreation Center, 660 N. 11th Ave., from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. There will be games, a bounce house, raffles, silent auctions, music and food. All proceeds will benefit the Snider family and everyone is welcome to come out, have some fun and wish Vicki well.



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