As kids we’re often asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Many of us continue to ask ourselves that question throughout our high school and college years, and well beyond.
Aurora resident Audrey Snoor (her married name — she was Audrey Griffith growing up) is one of those rare people who, as a young teen, had a clear goal for her future: She wanted to be a nurse. But it was a difficult personal experience that led to this vision.
Audrey was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma at the age of 13. Instead of eighth-grade graduation parties, her family’s calendar was filled with chemotherapy appointments in downtown Chicago, at what was then Children’s Memorial Hospital. The chemo sessions, which ran from May through August, were followed by radiation therapy in September. The outcome of the treatment was good: Her cancer went into remission.
“The nurses had such a significant and positive impact on my life,” Snoor says. “A lot was hectic and rushed during this whole period, but the nurses allowed me to slow down. They stuck with me during chemo, and I got to know them. I knew I wanted to have that same impact on people’s lives.”
Fast forward 10 years and Audrey Snoor is on the job at the Edward Cancer Center as an oncology nurse. She divides her time between patients receiving chemotherapy and those undergoing cancer surgery.
“I’m with people at a very vulnerable time,” she says. “I think my experience helps me to be empathetic to their needs and concerns. One patient was having difficulty breathing, a reaction to the infusion. While the other nurse gave her medications to reverse the physical symptoms, I shared some techniques that helped me control the panic when I had a similar infusion reaction. Afterward, I told her my story and she said, ‘I could tell that you understood and knew just what I needed.’”
Snoor also understands the frustrations that go along with treatment.
“The wait for lab or test results can seem never-ending. I try to keep families updated about when the results should be ready,” she says. “And I ask if I can do something for them in the meantime. But the most important thing I can do for patients is to help them maintain hope, especially when there are new drugs or treatments in the pipeline.”
Snoor says the patients do a lot for her, too.
“Because patients come in regularly over an extended period, I have the privilege of getting to know them and becoming part of their network,” Snoor says. “I hear many wonderful stories about their lives. And we get a lot of kind words. Just recently a young man in his 20s stopped in to say ‘thanks’ when he was here for his six-month follow-up. He had been treated for the same type of cancer that I had, and I was able to suggest some helpful tips and tricks that aren’t in the textbooks.
“While no one wants to have cancer, in my case, it was a blessing because it got me to the job I love.”
Health Aware is a weekly column courtesy of Edward Hospital.