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Published on December 07, 2018

Avera Cancer Institute Navigation Center Staff

When the Diagnosis is Cancer, Help is Just a Call Away

Jenna Snyder knows storms. The Sioux Falls woman works in sales and marketing for a firm that goes to sites after hurricanes to clean up commercial properties. Snyder faced her own storm last year, and it started at the dentist, shortly after she returned from Florida and Texas after 2017’s hurricanes and flooding.

“There was a bump, deep inside my upper lip, and I knew about it. The dentist noticed it and asked me if it hurt, and how long it’d been there,” said Snyder. “He recommended I see a doctor if it got bigger.”

Having a brother in health care never hurts; when Snyder’s brother looked at her bump, he told her to seek medical treatment, but she was a little surprised after visiting MidWest ENT, an ear, nose and throat specialty clinic.

They scheduled her for surgery right away and removed what she thought was a cyst. “They later told me they had to send the tissue to Iowa for a specialist to review it,” she said. “That led to another appointment, and when they told me what they found, I freaked out a little. I teared up.”

No Idea It Was Cancer

The diagnosis was cancer, and since it was located above her shoulders, it could create unique challenges.

“When I started to look at the appointments I needed to set up, I called Avera, and that’s when Rita really took over. She was such a blessing through this whole process,” said Snyder. “She got my appointments set up with oncologists at Avera, and she really had me covered from the first time we spoke to the conclusion.”

Rita Sanem, who takes calls at the Avera Cancer Navigation Center, was able to help Snyder. Navigators like Sanem help patients with the myriad questions that come with a cancer journey.

“There are just so many appointments and medical terms and locations, and Rita just took over my case and got me covered,” she said. “She helped me set up things with Dr. (Benjamin) Solomon, and whenever I would call, if she didn’t have the answer, she would find out and call me back, right away. She was almost like a mom to me, she took such good care of me.”

Honest Approaches

Snyder said she was most impressed with Benjamin Solomon, MD, in part because he presented her with the truth.

“He was really professional and approachable, and when he recommended I seek care with another hospital because they had a more experienced department in head and neck cancers, that really struck me,” she said. “He actually knew someone from medical school who was on the team in that department, so while he wasn’t my cancer physician, his help was valuable to me. It meant a lot.”

She traveled to Minnesota for her assessment, where surgeons addressed it quickly. While some cases of cancer like hers require extensive surgery to include skin grafts from other parts of the body, she did not. Snyder is now clear of cancer and will follow up with her surgeon in about six months.

“Even after the procedure, Rita was still helping me with insurance paperwork and other questions I had,” said Snyder. “She was so helpful, even though I did not have my surgery at Avera, to me that says it all. Her help really made me feel like I was a part of a family, not just on my own, no matter what.”

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