Kathy Snow sits at Caribbean Club, wearing a bright pink shirt with a cancer ribbon. The words “It feels good to be strong” encircle the iconic breast cancer image. “I wear pink every day in October,” she said.
Snow was diagnosed with fast-growing breast cancer in June 2011. With the support of her husband, Bob, her family, and her close-knit Keys friends, she underwent a bilateral mastectomy and one year of chemo. “They’re my everything, my life,” Snow said about her support network. And now? She’s cancer-free. “I’m healthy. I’m 73, and I’m lucky to be. Just very lucky,” she acknowledges.
As she sits down with Upper Keys Weekly, friends come by to give her hugs, ask how she’s doing, and tell the Weekly what an incredible person she is. “Do you know her last name? And do you see the color of her hair? I call her Snow White, and I love her!” said an enthusiastic and effervescent Ricky Cortina.
This past year, Snow’s husband passed away from lung cancer. “He died in my arms,” said Snow. She holds her phone close to her heart, before turning it around to display her background image. It’s Bob, smiling back at her in a pink tank top. “My husband wore pink every day of October. It was his thing. I promised him I would keep it up, so I do.”
There are so many reasons cancer sucks. Snow summarizes it: “I was just gonna say, cancer sucks because cancer sucks.” But she doesn’t let it keep her down. Instead, Snow stays active in the fight against the disease and in her striving to keep living a full, happy life.
To the first end, Snow is very involved with the Cancer Foundation of the Florida Keys. Every year, she and friends participate in a 5-mile fundraising walk from Sharkey’s to the Caribbean Club. “One hundred percent of the money goes to the nonprofit and hospice,” said Snow. “It doesn’t go to research. It goes to families here in the county going through it to help them with their everyday living expenses – food, rent, whatever they need.” Cortina chimes in, “If that’s her walk, that’s my walk. I’ll be there!”
Snow smiles with gratitude. “I have a wonderful support system here. The people are truly wonderful. I am lucky.”
Full name? Nickname? Kathleen Snow. Kathy with a K.
Where did you grow up? I grew up in Ridley Township, Pennsylvania. We started coming down here in 1996 as snowbirds, so we’d be here for 6 months and back in Pennsylvania and Delaware for 6 months. And then in 2003, we decided to stay full time.
Why did you decide to move here full-time? My husband took an early retirement, and I started my own consulting business. All I had to do was live near an airport, so that was one of the main reasons. We got tired taking care of two homes. It’s a lot of work. And we love it here, we love the people.
Are you still a consultant? I retired from my consulting job in December 2016. The people at the Caribbean Club are my friends, and I work on Sundays during the day. This isn’t a job; this is fun. Meet great people; beautiful view; Keeps me busy, especially now without Bob.
What’s something people don’t know about you? That I can’t retire. I have to do something. I work here on Sundays; I do trivia on Mondays; I just have to stay busy.
What’s a ‘locals only’ secret about life in the Keys that you’re willing to share? One of my favorite things with my husband to do is to go to Short Key. We call it Dog Key, ‘cause we can take a dog there. That was one of the things we loved to do — go during the week when no tourists were around and it was quiet and just us. We’d boat there and picnic. It was fun.
You’re well known in the community. What do you think you’re known for? Cortina jumps in, “Generosity and helping others.”
What are some of the things you’ve done to help others? I do the benefit walk every year. I pick up the cancer donation jars once a month. From here to Robbie’s, I collect them once a month. And my husband and I, if anyone needed anything, we just helped them. A lot of them are a lot younger and they’re like our kids – our Florida kids.
How did you feel when you learned you had cancer? I was scared. I can remember coming out of the building next to Mariners. I was in there, and they did a mammogram. The lady told me ‘It looks like cancer.’ It was a growth, and they set up an appointment for the next day. I had to go up to Miami to get stuff done. My husband was waiting in the car, and when I told him, we both just started crying. Then, we decided we weren’t gonna cry again, and that we were just gonna deal with it. And we did.
Who were you scared to tell? My kids. I eventually told them a couple days later. They were very upset, and they wanted to hop on a plane and get down here. I told them to wait until we knew what the treatment was going to be. I told them to wait. Then my daughter came down, and she stayed for a few weeks.
Has the word survivor changed in meaning to you? Very much. I knew that I had to survive it. I knew that I could. I knew I was strong enough. I had such a wonderful support system, I just, you know, decided. I wasn’t gonna think about it destroying my life. I was just gonna live my life the way I always did.
What was the biggest challenge about having breast cancer that people don’t realize? I think the biggest challenge is staying positive. You have to stay positive because that’s what gets you through it. You don’t worry about losing your hair, losing your breast, your appearance. You just think about your family and your friends and moving forward. Getting through it. Being positive is the best thing. That’s what got me through it.
Who has been your strongest support? My husband. We were married 39 years. Together 44.
Did you do anything cool or different to commemorate being done with any treatments or being cancer-free? My friends Kristy and Kathy would drive me to chemo. I had to go up to Baptist in Kendall. They would drive me up and we would play games, do trivia, Scrabble and stuff. And when I was done, they had a big party at my house. All my friends, all these guys were there celebrating me being cancer-free.
What’s the first thing you do when you wake up every day? Right now, I look at a picture of my husband, and I say ‘Good morning!’ Then I go in and check on our puppy, Morgan. And say good morning and feed her. And then I make a cup of tea. Morgan is 14½.
What’s your idea of the perfect weekend? It’s hard now without Bob here. I guess, just being here in the Keys with my friends. A beautiful view of the water. Just being with friends.
What’s your go-to drink after a long day? I’m not a big drinker but when I do, I drink Mic Ultra. Or iced tea.
What in your life are you most proud of? My family. My children. And my grandchildren. My grandchildren are just amazing. I have 3 – 28, 17, and 16. The oldest one, I started taking him on vacations just me and him when he was 2. When he got to 17, I took the two youngest ones. Some of the places we’ve been the last 12 years are Italy, England, Paris, Switzerland. Yellowstone, Grand Teton, Alaska, and Costa Rica. I didn’t share them. I didn’t bring my kids or Bob. These were ‘Granny Vacations’ — their favorite.
What’s the most exciting project you’ve got coming up or looking forward to? One of the things I was looking forward to was to see the Eagles, a concert in Vegas. I just saw them at end of September, and it was the best concert of my life. They played for 4 hours. It was unbelievable. And I’m looking forward to seeing them again in 2020. I’m looking at LA and SF. And right now, spending Christmas with my grandchildren and children in North Carolina.
What is the biggest lesson you’ve taken from the entire experiences? Never give up. Stay positive. Life is short, enjoy it.
Who are your role models and why? My parents. They were so generous and kind. I’m the youngest of 12.
If you had a superpower, what would it be? My superpower would be to rid the world of all cancer.
If you could snap your fingers and cure one thing about the world, what would it be? The way it is today, everybody fights over everything…. Hate. That’s the word, hate.
Finish these sentences….
Keys life is … paradise.
Surviving breast cancer is … Amazing. Wonderful.
Friends and family are … my life.