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Published on April 09, 2018

Jean Snyders (L) and Karri Stearns (R)

Pink Ladies: Where are they now? Jean Snyders

The morning of the Avera Race Against Breast Cancer, Jean Snyders has a view of the crowd – thousands of runners and walkers, survivors and loved ones – almost all touched in some way by cancer.

You’ll see her with a megaphone in one hand — raised into the air on a lift directing the crowds where to go.

Every year she says she won’t cry. Every year she does anyway.

“It’s an overwhelming feeling that day,” Snyders said. “It’s just amazing to see all those people there for a cause.”

As a breast cancer survivor of 17 years and a Pink Lady, Jean is also a volunteer coordinator for the race. Her grandkids are trusty helpers that day. Her oldest daughter who lives in town participates with her family.

The Avera Race raises funds that benefit cancer programs right here in Sioux Falls. The wig program and Integrative Medicine programs are just two services the more than $5.7 million raised over the past 30 years has gone toward.

Surviving Cancer

Snyders was diagnosed in 2000 with early stage breast cancer. After having chemotherapy and six weeks of radiation she went on oral medications for 10 years. Today, she gets a yearly mammogram and hasn’t had a recurrence.

“It’s always in the back of my mind when I go in for a screening,” she said. “It will never go away but it gets better over time.”

Her advice for those newly diagnosed women is simple: educate yourself on services available because the journey is so much more than your treatment, whether it’s how to get a wig or learning about acupuncture to help ease side effects.

“The Avera Cancer Institute does an amazing job telling patients about resources available but there is just so much,” she said.

Unleashing Her Strength

When Snyders was diagnosed her major concern was her three kids. Also newly divorced, Jean took off work as Pulmonary Rehab Coordinator at Avera McKennan Hospital & University only on days of her treatment to keep things as normal as possible.

“I wanted my kids to know when things get tough you don’t just fold, you keep going,” she said.

The experience taught her that she has a power within in she didn’t yet know existed.

“If you had told me shortly after divorce God would put cancer on me and I’d have the strength to get through it, I would have thought it was impossible,” she said.

After her diagnosis Snyders decided she wanted to do more for the Avera Race and started helping with volunteer coordination efforts. That evolved into becoming the volunteer coordinator for the roughly 400 people it takes to plan and run the event – a year-long planning process.

“When I was first diagnosed one of the things that helped me was seeing women 10 to 15 years after diagnosis,” she said. “It gave me so much hope. I don’t need that anymore, but I hope that I give that sense of hope to someone else now.”

Learn more about the event, including how you can take part.

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