Covington City Council member Wayne Snoey recovers from battle with cancer
By TJ MARTINELL
Covington Reporter Reporter
August 10, 2012 · Updated 10:17 AM
It takes more than stage three prostate cancer to faze Covington City Council member Wayne Snoey.
“I know thousands of people… who’ve had worse illnesses,” he said. “The last six months were awful in some respects, but I’m here now. It’s not that bad.”
Snoey, 60, first learned he had prostate cancer in December during a routine medical checkup. The discovery, he said, was a fluke. He had shown no signs or symptoms to suggest he had it, and the doctor wasn’t looking for it specifically despite the fact that his father had died from the illness at the age of 55.
“Every man gets prostate cancer (at some point), but they usually die of something else,” Snoey said.
The doctors first assumed it was stage two when Snoey considered his options for treatment. One was to do radiation to destroy the cancer cells. The other option was robotic surgery. He opted for robotic surgery.
In the meantime, however, the cancer meant Snoey would have to cut back on a number of his commitments, of which there were many, particularly with regional transportations issues. He not only serves as a council member, but was also the chairman of the South King County Area Transportation Board and served on the executive board for the Puget Sound Regional Council, representing south King County. He also worked with various children’s charities. In addition, he worked full time in residential real estate.
This wasn’t the first time Snoey dealt with poor health interfering with his civic commitments. After he was elected to the City Council in 2001, he was forced to resign two years later due to health problems. He was later appointed to the City Council in 2007 and has been reelected twice since then with no opposition.
Fortunately, his position on the SKCATB and PSRG expired in December, which allowed him to step down from those commitments when his health made it impossible to continue.
“The timing was good because it didn’t require me to stop my commitment midstream,” he said. “It was just natural I let that go.”
Mayor Magaret Harto, a 14-year survivor of breast cancer, said that both of them had similar initial reactions to their health problems.
“I think for Wayne, and this is from my own perspective, sometimes you have to be hit over the head with a hammer before you realize ‘Hey yeah, this is having a significant impact on my life and I have to find out what my priorities are,’” Harto said. “It took him a while to get to that point. But quite frankly when they’re putting poison in your body it slows you down whether you like it or not.”
Ultimately, however, Harto said that Snoey informed her and others about the cancer.
“He spoke privately to (City Manager) Derek Matheson and myself and said ‘I’m going to have to cut back because this is really making me tired,’” Harto said. “Wayne has always been so active and so passionate and so giving. We had a conversation about how it’s harder to receive than to give…Wayne is definitely a giver.”
Snoey said he also had to step down from other commitments, including the children’s charities he had been involved in. He still continued to attend City Council meetings as well as serve on the audit committee, but mainly he said he concentrated on his work in real estate.
“As a real estate dealer, I don’t get sick leave,” he said. “It allowed me to focus on primarily earning a living while dealing with an illness. I really needed to focus.”
Matheson, Covington’s city manager, said for the most part Snoey was able to keep up with City Council affairs.
“Wayne missed a couple of meetings, maybe two or three, for his surgery and during recovery, but during that time I continued to talk to him on the phone, we continued to exchange emails and he was still very engage in city government,” Matheson said. “So other than the council voting to excuse him from a few meetings, the city didn’t have to change its normal business practices. Wayne has a great attitude. He’s a hard worker and a lot of people didn’t realize he was going through this battle with cancer.”
In preparation for the surgery, Snoey had to take chemotherapy pills.
“I had it actually pretty easy compared to most people,” Snoey said. “I didn’t have to do horrible injections. (But) I was very fatigued from then on. For the first time in my life if I walked three blocks I had to sit down and rest, because it sucks the life out of you. It was awful at certain times. But again you do what you’ve got to do instead of sitting around and feeling sorry for yourself.”
During a biopsy in January, doctors discovered the cancer was far more serious than they had thought — it was much more aggressive.
“(Basically) I had five years to live if I did nothing,” Snoey said.
During surgery in late April the surgeons found it to be even worse. The stage two cancer was actually stage three and had moved outside the prostate, where radiation treatment would have missed it. Snoey described the weeks following his surgery as “awful.” After catching the flu, he said he lost 15 pounds in 10 days and eventually had to go to the emergency room to treat dehydration, where he was given two liters of fluids. Along with side effects from the medication he takes, he said he also hasn’t had a good night’s sleep in six months. Yet, in spite of this, Snoey said he had it easy compared to most people who have battled cancer.
“I’ve had people work for me, friends, they’ve had far worse cancers than even the cancer that I had,” Snoey said. “I didn’t have to do injective chemo. Life just goes on. I just adapt to a situation that I haven’t planned on.”
Although he has reassumed some of his commitments, including chairing the SEATS coalition, Matheson said Snoey is taking it easy for now.
“I think he was surprised by how the recovery zapped his energy,” he said. “Wayne is a high energy person. He doesn’t walk. He speeds walks wherever he’s going. I think it was hard for him to slow down a little bit. He’s cut back on a lot of regional involvement but the ones he hasn’t he’s been a passionate advocate for transportation solutions in the central puget sound area.”
Snoey said he will maintain a low-key profile for the near future in order to recover.
“I’m still taking part in key, important issues,” Snoey said. “But the day to day issues in the city you won’t see me. I need to limit my time and control my stress. I have to keep my stress down because it’s not good post-cancer. My doctors have told me to slow down, which is hard for me because I’ve had this pace since I was 17.”
Harto said that the good relationships between council members and city staff help make it easier for those like Snoey when unexpected difficulties arise in their lives.
“He’s been pretty low key here at a local level and we understand that,” Harto said. “We can accommodate that and we would do that for any of our council members. The staff does that too for us. They can accommodate us in a variety of ways. You do get very tired. He just doesn’t come to City Council meetings on Tuesdays and then hit the golf course. One thing about this council is we treat each other with respect and dignity but we are supportive of one another. I think that’s one thing the community sees about us. We just do treat each other with respect. We can all go have a beer at Applebees, as long as we don’t sit together (to avoid an unintentional quorum), just to be on the safe side.”
Contact Covington Reporter Reporter TJ Martinell at email@example.com or 425-432-1209 ext. 5052.