A Life Lived: Susan Snyder was one of cancer’s fallen heroines

Published 6:13 pm Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Susan Snyder

Cancer is not a fight. It is an illness. There are people who survive it, and there are people who succumb to it. Cancer doesn’t operate on our terms.
Cancer patients do not choose the disease. The disease chooses them.
The disease is always life changing — and often life ending. Such was the case of Susan Renee James Snyder, who died Feb. 21 at the age of 48. Susan had spent almost half of her life — 22 years — battling cancer.
It deprived her from pursuing a career, of living independently much of the time, and of being the mother and grandmother she wanted to be. But during those 22 years, she was far stronger mentally than many of her peers. Her battle with cancer required a lot of grit, determination, and a fighting spirit.
Susan was the typical teenager, and popular among her high school peers. A 1987 graduate of Hampton High School, she was a member of the National Honor Society, elected Miss HHS, and was crowned Beauty of Beauty and the Beast. After high school she attended cosmetology school and worked for a brief time as a hairdresser before enrolling in licensed practical nurse training at the Elizabethton Vocational Technical School. Susan had been employed as an LPN at Ivy Hall Nursing Home before she became unable to work.
Her introduction to cancer began with her father, Harlan Banner, who suffered and died from the dreaded disease. Her own personal encounter with the disease began when she was diagnosed with vaginal cancer at the age of 26, requiring surgery and follow-up treatment. Her cancer later spread to the bladder, resulting in it being surgically removed and the need for a urostomy. The final straw was when she was diagnosed with cancer in the pancreas and liver.
“She was one brave, courageous fighter. She wanted to live for her daughter, Elizabeth, and granddaughter, Marlei,” said her mother, Roma Jean Hodge, who was Susan’s principal caregiver. “She hurt a lot, but she rarely complained.”
Her mother has fond memories of Susan — a contagious smile, a people lover, a person who endured herself to others, and courage. “She was also very smart. In school, she made good grades, but studied very little. Learning came natural to her,” said Mrs. Hodge.
Although Susan’s nursing career was cut short by her illness, Mrs. Hodge said Susan loved her work and enjoyed caring for older people. She later worked for a home health care agency, and sat with people.
Although she was deprived of the joy of growing old, Susan had experienced a lot in her short life — love, the joys of motherhood and being a grandmother. “Oh! did she love Marlei, her granddaughter, now 10 years old. No matter how bad she felt, when she came, she got up and entertained her. She especially enjoyed biking with her,” Mrs. Hodge said.
She left behind a collection of things Marlei had made for her — drawings, handprints, valentines, and other momentos. “She kept them in her treasure box,” said Mrs. Hodge.
Susan’s obituary noted that she enjoyed playing “Rally” in the yard with family and sharing clothes with her daughter. As long as she was able, she enjoyed playing softball.
In her quiet time, Susan enjoyed drawing. “She was very artistic. In high school she designed her prom dress,” said a proud Mrs. Hodge.
Although Susan never participated much in Relay For Life, she loved wearing pink. “It was her badge of courage,” said Mrs. Hodge.
Susan also leaves behind four sisters and a host of friends.
She was laid to rest Saturday at Happy Valley Memorial Park.
There are times cancer makes sense, especially when its victim is a survivor. Mostly, it doesn’t. Susan Snyder was a cancer victim, but she was also a fallen hero.
John Wayne “Abe” Elliott’s short obituary in the weekend paper notes: “He did not live to be 100 and was not shot by a jealous husband as he often joked.”
John, who friends described as a “real character,” died Jan. 15 of cancer.
Jody Ferguson, a friend and co-worker of John’s daughter, Alacia, described John as a real down-to-earth person, who enjoyed fishing. “He enjoyed fishing at Watauga Lake, and in different streams and rivers in the area. He especially enjoyed fishing for trout, which he fixed and ate,” said Ferguson.
Elliott by trade was a carpenter and did odd jobs for people.
He was always joking that if ever got shot it would be by a jealous husband — the reason for the insertion in his obituary.
Friends said John had no worries, never took life seriously, and was his own person.
Although he was born and raised in Elizabethton, Elliott lived and worked in Columbia, S.C., for many years before returning to Elizabethton to spend his last years.
One of the final lines in his obituary said: “Now, he can go fishing every day.”
His family will celebrate his life at the Covered Bridge on March 5 at 1 p.m.
Happy fishing, John “Abe” Elliott. We never knew you, but you sound like a lot of fun.

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