FORT WALTON BEACH — As Ruth Snyder snipped away strands of her son's hair Thursday, it was as if she was cutting away a four-year battle with breast cancer.
A battle, she proudly proclaims, that will likely end in victory.
The 69-year-old's story began in 2014, when a local doctor conducted an exam and determined she was breast cancer-free.
Snyder, who was adamant about conducting routine self breast exams, said she opted to take a mammogram "just to be on the safe side." The mammogram, however, found something a self-exam and doctors couldn't.
"Neither of us found any lumps," Snyder said. "Just because you can't feel it and you don't feel sick, doesn't mean the cancer isn't there. The mammogram is what saved my life."
Snyder said she immediately began chemotherapy, radiation and had a lumpectomy to fight what was nearly Stage 3 breast cancer. Months later, she was in remission.
"After that, I thought it was over," Snyder said, crying. "I thought I was cancer-free."
In March, however, Snyder began having difficulty breathing while on her beloved daily walks. The cancer was back and, this time, it was Stage 4 breast cancer that metastasized into her bones.
The only word that described the emotion she felt, Snyder said, was "devastated."
"It was in the vertebra in my back and I also had two cancer cells in the base of my skull," she said. "They found 26 possible cancer cells."
Since March, Snyder has undergone a second round of radiation and hormone therapy. At her last check-up this month, she was told the 26 possible cancer cells have been reduced to only two.
"We're very happy about this," said Bradley Wise, Snyder's son. "It's devastating to find out your loved one has cancer. She's a fighter, she doesn't give up. That's what I love about her."
In a celebration Thursday, Wise honored his mother's treatment success by shaving his head to donate his hair to cancer victims.
An emotional Snyder said she was overwhelmed by her son's gesture and the community's support. She said what she's looking forward to most now is never having cancer again.
"What I want people to take from this is that it's very important for women and men to make sure they get a mammogram," Snyder said. "I'm doing much better, but I want other people to be aware of what happened."
Snyder said she is also looking forward to never seeing her son with long hair again.