When you lose your mother from cancer at a young age, you never know how that will affect a child’s life. In Sam’s case, a natural inclination towards science and an immense amount of empathy mixed with a few life detours led him to a career in cancer research. Lucky for GRYT Health, he stumbled across our community.
Sam Schneider resides on the big island in Hilo, Hawaii until December 2021. He grew up on the mainland in the Northwest and he’ll be relocating back to his home state of Washington. He loves the wilderness in Washington State, specifically on the Olympic peninsula, where he grew up. Sam would love to travel Europe. He grew up in a place that was devoid of significant history over 100 years old so he feels it would be amazing to be surrounded by history older than that.
Sam is a GRYT Health Senior Research Coordinator. He does a little bit of everything in regards to research. He writes protocols, surveys and discussion guides for projects, identifies and organizes transcripts, analyzes data, recruits patients for projects, and creates presentations as deliverables for clients.
Before attending college, Sam worked in construction. At Western Washington University in Bellingham, Washington, Sam obtained a BS in chemistry. While there, he worked in a research lab doing biofuels research, converting algae to biofuel.
Sam went on to Seattle Children’s Hospital & Research Institute working on immunotherapy treatments and worked on the development of CAR-T treatments for children. While there, he expanded his love of research and working towards cures for cancer. He really enjoyed his time in Seattle honing his knowledge and skill set while working on cancer research, a subject very close to his heart. He feels fortunate to have been a part of a large, expanding pediatric cancer center.
When his soon-to-be-wife, Sophie, accepted a criminalist position in Hilo, they moved to the big island. Sam took advantage of his new locale and spent a little time being a beach bum and exploring Hawaii while he scouted the internet for new employment prospects right before the pandemic hit. That’s when he found GRYT Health. He was blown away by his professional fortune a second time by landing his GRYT Health position and being able to be a part of another rapidly expanding organization doing amazing things in the oncology field. He finds it really satisfying to be able to work directly with cancer patients and survivors and he has gained an entire new skill set professionally with his out-facing work. Personally he says it’s been amazing to be a part of an organization that puts both patients and employees’ mental and physical well-being first.
Sam is inspired to work in the oncology field because he is ample to come in when people’s lives are imploding and they feel like they have very little control over anything and he can come in and give them support and make a difference in their quality of life while connecting with them on a personal level is really rewarding and has been really healing for him. It makes his losses a bit more bearable.
Cancer runs through Sam’s family. He lost all four of his grandparents to cancer in addition to his mother. He has had up close and personal experiences with cancer. He struggled through his teens and had to do some soul searching before he got his act together and attended college. There he connected with a passion for doing cancer research. He has found it incredibly rewarding and empowering to contribute to cancer solutions.
Sam was about 6 years old when his mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. She battled the beast on and off throughout his childhood. When he was around 12 years old, her recurrence became metastatic. She passed about 2 years later and Sam’s life imploded.
COVID-19 postponed Sam’s nuptials to Sophie. They are planning to move back to the mainland soon to be closer to family as they build their life together. They are not sure when they will actually walk down the aisle so they already refer to each other as husband and wife. In addition to his wife, he has his father and uncle as well as friends from high school and college to round out his human support system. Sam also has a beloved support stuffed-but-live rabbit, Bean.
After many years of not using his voice, Sam is compelled to use his voice now to speak up about oncology issues on behalf of his mother and grandparents. For a long time, Sam did not share the stories of his family members. He also did not talk about the effect of cancer on his own mental health status, dropping out of school and battling drug use as a result of the mental and emotional traumas he experienced. For years he put all of that on the backburner, but GRYT Health encourages people to be open about their experiences, discussing challenging issues and looking at things from various types of lenses.
Sam recalls his mother continuing to do an amazing job of being his mom. Despite sleeping 20 hours a day, going in for infusions every other day and still she managed to make him good meals and take him to soccer practice and games. He treasures memories of playing games together. Seeing what people experience while going through cancer diagnoses as an adult, Sam is amazed that his mom continually pulled these feats off until her final days. His mother’s strength blows him away.
Sam feels that the challenges he has experienced are all trivial in comparison to what cancer patients endure. He has personally witnessed what his mother, grandparents and friends have gone through and it gives him great perspective on some of the more trivial things that he’s had to endure like going for an endoscopy/colonoscopy. When you compare a procedure like that to what cancer patients go through over the course of their treatments and the rest of their lives, it’s barely a scratch on the surface. Although, as a scientist, Sam would really love to get rid of cancer, at the moment, that is not possible so he hopes that his work with GRYT Health helps to make the patient experience better. He works with the rest of the research team to do everything in their power to work with the pharmaceutical industry to improve the patient experience and take action to make people’s lives better.
Working in construction before college and in the lab at Seattle Children’s, Sam got used to being very active and moving around for large amounts of time during the day. He enjoys taking at least 6 walks a day and does a lot of hiking and backpacking, although he’s not able to backpack on the island due to the size of the area. On the island, he spends a lot of time at the beach doing typical Hawaiian beach pastimes. When he was in Washington, he spent a lot of time backpacking in Washington, Montana, Colorado and other places. He plans to pick that pastime back up when they move back to Washington. He also enjoys playing video games online with his friends, watching TV and movies, playing guitar and hanging out with friends.