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Sibley woman keeps busy in the midst of cancer fights

SIBLEY, Iowa -- To call Bobbie Snow a survivor would certainly be accurate. It also just might be an understatement. Snow has overcome one form of cancer and continues her battle with another, yet has continued to give of herself in many ways ove...

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Bobbie Snow poses with the gold-plated rose she received through St. Mary's Catholic Church. (Ryan McGaughey/Daily Globe)

SIBLEY, Iowa - To call Bobbie Snow a survivor would certainly be accurate.

It also just might be an understatement. Snow has overcome one form of cancer and continues her battle with another, yet has continued to give of herself in many ways over the years. One form of evidence of her good work: a gold-plated rose she received last year through St. Mary’s Catholic Church, recognition that comes through the pope and the Vatican.

Early years Snow has spent much of her life in northwest Iowa. She grew up in Ocheyedan and, after completing her sophomore year, finished her high school education at a girls boarding school in Omaha, Neb. She attended the College of St. Mary’s in Omaha for a year before returning home.

“I came back here and worked for my dad at the bank,” she recalled, noting that she was employed at Ocheyedan Savings Bank. “I married a guy from Ashton - he was a barber. I worked at the bank for about a year … and then did some secretarial work on the side, but it just got too much. I was soon raising five children.”

It was during that time when Snow began finding ways to help give back to others in need.

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“When I was in Ashton, I had delivery problems with my children and needed a lot of blood transfusions,” she shared. “I was on a group that started working to get the American Red Cross to come in so we could get some blood donated here. I don’t know if it was an auxiliary of the hospital or not … but that might have been my first real volunteering.”

Snow remained in Ashton with her husband and children - the oldest of the five is now age 55 - until 1970. After 10 years there, they moved a few miles northward to Sibley.

“I moved up here and got involved with Off, Off Broadway (a dinner theater group in Ashton),” she said. “I did a lot of plays, was on the board, acted/directed/produced and did props.

“In between that, I started studying to be a liturgist for the Catholic church,” she continued. ”Every Saturday I'd go to classes for about three years. I just kind of fell in love with the music  - I always liked music  - and (after) Vatican II, there became more of an opportunity.”

Snow attended classes across northwest Iowa on weekends with another woman from Ocheyedan. Eventually, she found an ideal opportunity to serve in a congregation.

“At the time, there were some priests that were more willing to work with the lay people than others,” she said. “I got connected with a priest over at Spirit Lake that was very willing and interested in my expertise, and I worked with him for about three years.

Her next church stop after that - St. Mary’s in Worthington - would become her longtime place of worship.

“After searching around, I went up to Worthington and sat in the congregation for about a month or two and decided I really liked what they did with music up there.” Snow said. “I just started out and offered my services as a substitute organist, and from there it went on to being the choir director and then serving as a liturgist off and on.

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“It’s a passion of mine, and they do music so well at St. Mary’s. Plus, with the addition of the Hispanic groups, it’s been challenging but also rewarding to work with those services also. It’s spiritually fulfilling for me to work with music. I’m touched by music, especially well-done choral music.”

Keeping busy While Snow was getting involved with the music program at St. Mary’s, she was also singing with a diocesan choir along with three Worthington women.

“We toured Rome and Assisi, Germany and Ireland on three separate tours,” she recalled. “It was wonderful to sing in those venues; those old churches are just incredible. The first time we sang as a group in the basement chapel at Assisi and the organ was at least 500 years old, that was the first time that most of the group heard what happens when you sing in a venue like that with good people. It was just thrilling.”

Snow remembers a “Peanuts” comic strip from sometime in the 1970s in which Snoopy said something about how his mom wasn’t making pies anymore because she gotten involved in a theater group. Her kids cut that strip out and stuck it to the refrigerator - but it was far more than theater, choir and church that was consuming Snow’s time.

“When the kids got older, I started working again and ended up working three part-time jobs as a single mother,” said Snow, who officially became a single mom in 1981. “I eventually decided that I couldn’t do that any longer and that I had to get a real job. I went down to NCC (Northwest Iowa Community College) in Sheldon and took a test to see what I was really adaptable to. Of course, it turned out to be bookkeeping and secretarial, which I’d been doing all my life.”

After about four months, Snow was hired as a receptionist/bookkeeper at the REC (rural electric cooperative) in Sibley, where she was able to work just four blocks from home. She began her work there in January 1984  - she also married her second husband, Gary, later that year  - and continued to attend classes at NCC, and would later advance to the accounting position until leaving the REC in 1995.

“It was a very good job,” Snow said.

Life changes After leaving the REC, Snow received some deflating yet not-entirely-unexpected news In January 1996 when she was diagnosed with breast cancer.

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“I'm a third-generation breast cancer survivor, so I kind of figured I was going to get it,” she said.

“I had also been on Premarin ... a hormone replacement ... for 30 years (1966 to 1996).

“That diagnosis was what started my journey with the American Cancer Society.”

Since her tumor was very small and there were no lymph nodes involved, Snow said it was determined she wouldn’t need radiation treatments or chemotherapy. Unfortunately, her insurance wouldn’t cover the double mastectomy she desired. One or two years later, she said - thanks in part to ACS lobbying efforts - the law changed, requiring such procedures be covered by insurance given family histories such as Snow’s.

About four years after her diagnosis, Snow was contacted by a woman who was reaching out to her on behalf of Reach to Recovery.

“Reach to Recovery is a program of the ACS that helps women cope through the early days of a breast cancer diagnosis all the way through surgery and afterward. It lets these women know there are a lot of survivors and that breast cancer is not a death sentence - you can still look good and feel good.

Snow proceeded to become involved with Reach to Recovery and, about four years later, she ended up taking the place of the woman who had initially reached out to her (she had retired).

“I did that, took over and ended up being the chief trainer for the state of Iowa,” Snow said. “I taught a class on how to call on people with breast cancer and offer support. The next year, staff people with Reach to Recovery said we needed to start a Relay (for Life event). We had a country group of cancer volunteers - in fact, my mother was on it. … I said, I can’t do it, but I’ll help you get started and I’ll give you names.”  

Snow did more than that. She wound up serving as chairperson of the Osceola County Relay for Life for its first 12 years. This year will mark the 17th Relay event in the county, and more than $855,000 has been raised for the ACS to date.

Three years ago, Snow was told she had multiple myeloma, a cancer that forms in a type of white blood cell called a plasma cell. It’s in no way connected to her breast cancer.

“I had been having a lot of back pain that really wasn’t unusual for me, but it was pretty severe. I had some blood tests taken … and was in Florida at the time when the doctor called Gary and said, ‘When she gets back home, get her in here.’”

Snow has continued to undergo chemotherapy treatments, yet is still thankful for where she remains today.

“Our first honorary chair for the Relay in 2001, she had multiple myeloma, suffered greatly and died,” Snow related. “Here I am, three years out, and I’m getting around just fine, thank you. I didn’t lose my hair, I’m not puking every day, and that’s because of research. What can I say? It’s been a helluva run.”

Among Snow’s accolades over the years include being named the NCC Alum of the Year and receiving the ACS Profile in Courage Award (“a survivorship thing” in 2006. Among her other involvement is treasurer of the Solid Gold Investment Club for 11 years and 25 years of singing with Ms. Musicale, a ladies’ vocal group she helped found, which performed a Christmas show and spring benefit concert each year.

In addition to her five children, Snow has 10 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

“Things could be so much worse - I’m just grateful for the friends I have and the church community in Worthington,” she said. “I am also so very grateful to my husband/caregiver and the many people who have included me in their prayers these last three years. I could not have survived without them.

“I’ve met people I had never dreamed of meeting, done things I think are just spectacular and have been able to enjoy my children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren,” she added. “It has been a great ride. Every day is a gift.”

 

Ryan McGaughey arrived in Worthington in April 2001 as sports editor of The Daily Globe, and first joined Forum Communications Co. upon his hiring as a sports reporter at The Dickinson (North Dakota) Press in November 1998. McGaughey became news editor in Worthington in November 2002 and editor in August 2006.
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