Texarkana, TX 82° Tue H 82° L 69° Wed H 88° L 73° Thu H 87° L 70° Weather Sponsored By:

A fresh breath of air

A fresh breath of air

Mother shares miraculous story of beating rare cancer

March 9th, 2019 by Tri-City Herald in National News

Connie Snodgrass holds her daughter, Madelyn Grace, who was only 3 weeks old when her mother was placed on life support due to a rare cancer. (Courtesy Steve and Connie Snodgrass/Tri-City Herald/TNS)

Code blue! Code blue!

"Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take "

A rush of footsteps filled the hospital hallway, racing toward the young mother's bedside.

" but by the moments that take our breath away."

Across town, a 3-week old baby and two young daughters wait, the beloved quote hanging silently in their home—while her life hung in the balance.

Connie Snodgrass knows well the breath she's been given—the strength she reached for in those moments, and the journey that followed.

"I'd had difficulty breathing, short of breath," Connie said, reflecting how her life-threatening situation began. "I thought, 'I'm old—38—for having babies. And I'm out of shape, that's a given.' But no, I was full of cancer! That's why I couldn't breathe—but we didn't know that."

There had been worry enough before little Madeline Grace was born; years earlier cholestasis,a common liver disease that only happens in pregnancy, had taken one baby girl at birth, a heartbreaking event that still makes Connie weep. But with a healthy delivery this time, a new love in her arms and husband Steve by her side, any concerns about shortness of breath were pushed aside.

Tiny pink dresses, soft receiving blankets and a welcoming rocking chair awaited. But in little more than two weeks after settling in at home, Connie was in crisis, diagnosed with rare metastatic choriocarcinoma—a cancer even more rare after a full-term pregnancy.

A plea for prayer circled the globe.

"They didn't even count how many tumors were in my lungs, it was astronomical—and I had lesions on my liver," Connie said, recalling the beginning of her stay at Brookwood Medical Center in Birmingham, Alabama. "Saturday morning, I crashed and they called Code blue because I was in respiratory failure."

"My grace is sufficient for thee "

"It's just a premonition about patients that you get sometimes who are about to get really sick. I just wanted to check on her early in the morning—I don't think I was on call—and I went by and she was doing poorly," said University of Alabama at Birmingham Gynecologic Oncologist Dr. Ronald Alvarez, recalling how he worked with the team to get Connie into ICU and onto life support. "It's always a God thing in these situations."

For 14 days Connie lay comatose and intubated, the ventilator breathing for her, the chemotherapy aggressively fighting the cancer.

"Usually choriocarcinoma cancer is responsive to chemotherapy and more than 85 percent of people will be cured from it," said Dr. Alvarez. "But they can also get so sick, like she was, where you can just die from being exceptionally sick. That was an issue for her that she could have died. The acute phase of her illness could have killed her."

"My strength is made perfect in weakness "

Family stayed bedside. Prayers were lifted up. Faith clung to God's promises.

"My dad was sitting with me during that time—he liked to talk even though I was unconscious—and he said, 'Connie, the Sunday lesson was about the woman who reached out to touch Jesus.' "

Her dad added, "The timing of her action—she sort of reaches out her hand into the sky—was coincident with my comments about the lady who touched the hem of the garment of Christ," said Mark Russell—a man with more than 40 years of cancer care treatment as a medical dosimetrist. "This was the first response we'd had in many days, and nodding her head was something I'd not expected."

"I don't remember this," Connie said. "But he told me this later that he had asked, 'Are you reaching out to touch Jesus?' And I nodded, 'Yes.' "

This divine "moment" occurred shortly before one of Connie's medical crises was resolved. Over the days, her health steadily improved. Chemotherapy protocol continued.

"Four weeks to the day I had entered the hospital, I went home," Connie said, reflecting on that long-awaited day in June of 2010. "It was amazing! No oxygen!"

She could breathe—healed because of her doctors' modern medical tools and the strength she'd been given, a strength she believes was heaven-sent.

Take a deep breath. To this day Connie is cancer-free.

"I think the Lord works miracles every day," Dr. Alvarez said. "She was critically ill with a really critical cancer, and she got better from her cancer—from being so critically ill. God does all the work, we just try to stay out of the way," he added with a smile.

And the familiar quote about "moments" that graced her home? The words now held new meaning because of her cancer journey.

"When we got home, I looked at that and I said to Steve, 'I don't think I want to hang that in our room because we've just had moments that took my breath away—and they were very physical!" Connie said.

And so, she replaced the wall art with a piece a friend had given her—a reminder of the moment she reached for the hem of the Great Physician:

"My grace is sufficient for thee. My strength is made perfect in weakness."

Lucy Note: Connie, husband Steve and their daughters, now live in Sherman, Texas, where he is a church pastor and she is the Christian school administrator.


(Lucy Luginbill is a career television producer-host and the Spiritual Life editor for the Tri-City Herald. In her column, she reflects on the meaning of her name, "Light Bringer." If you have a story idea for Light Notes, contact her at lluginbilltricityherald.com.

Getting Started/Comments Policy

Getting started

  1. 1. If you frequently comment on news websites then you may already have a Disqus account. If so, click the "Login" button at the top right of the comment widget and choose whether you'd rather log in with Facebook, Twitter, Google, or a Disqus account.
  2. 2. If you've forgotten your password, Disqus will email you a link that will allow you to create a new one. Easy!
  3. 3. If you're not a member yet, Disqus will go ahead and register you. It's seamless and takes about 10 seconds.
  4. 4. To register, either go through the login process or just click in the box that says "join the discussion," type your comment, and either choose a social media platform to log you in or create a Disqus account with your email address.
  5. 5. If you use Twitter, Facebook or Google to log in, you will need to stay logged into that platform in order to comment. If you create a Disqus account instead, you'll need to remember your Disqus password. Either way, you can change your display name if you'd rather not show off your real name.
  6. 6. Don't be a huge jerk or do anything illegal, and you'll be fine.

Texarkana Gazette Comments Policy

The Texarkana Gazette web sites include interactive areas in which users can express opinions and share ideas and information. We cannot and do not monitor all of the material submitted to the website. Additionally, we do not control, and are not responsible for, content submitted by users. By using the web sites, you may be exposed to content that you may find offensive, indecent, inaccurate, misleading, or otherwise objectionable. You agree that you must evaluate, and bear all risks associated with, the use of the Gazette web sites and any content on the Gazette web sites, including, but not limited to, whether you should rely on such content. Notwithstanding the foregoing, you acknowledge that we shall have the right (but not the obligation) to review any content that you have submitted to the Gazette, and to reject, delete, disable, or remove any content that we determine, in our sole discretion, (a) does not comply with the terms and conditions of this agreement; (b) might violate any law, infringe upon the rights of third parties, or subject us to liability for any reason; or (c) might adversely affect our public image, reputation or goodwill. Moreover, we reserve the right to reject, delete, disable, or remove any content at any time, for the reasons set forth above, for any other reason, or for no reason. If you believe that any content on any of the Gazette web sites infringes upon any copyrights that you own, please contact us pursuant to the procedures outlined in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (Title 17 U.S.C. § 512) at the following address:

Copyright Agent
The Texarkana Gazette
15 Pine Street
Texarkana, TX 75501
Phone: 903-794-3311
Email: webeditor@texarkanagazette.com