Rare disease doesn’t stop Roanoke County teen from winning battle on and off the field

Emma Snyder says her relationship with God is what helped her return to play and realize that sports aren’t ‘everything’

One local teen doesn't let her disease stop her from winning battle on and off the field.

ROANOKE COUNTY, Va. – We first introduced you to Emma Snyder in 2017, when the athletic Roanoke County 8th grader was first diagnosed with a rare auto-immune disease, Chronic Recurrent Multifocal Osteomyelitis.

Also known as CRMO, the incurable disease causes abnormal inflammation around the bones. It affected Emma’s spine — sidelining her from volleyball, soccer and basketball — leaving both emotional and physical pain.

Emma was sidelined from basketball, soccer and volleyball (WSLS)

“I used to be the fastest on my team in any sport and I was the slowest and couldn’t play anymore, so that was very upsetting,” said Emma.

She went through physical therapy and received four monthly-rounds of infusion treatment at Duke University.

“It’s not a cure but it still helped a lot to strengthen my spine. After then, I had an MRI of my spine and that’s when they cleared me because it was gone.”

Emma has since been able to return to play. As a senior, she averaged over 20 points per game on the court for the Southwest Virginia Homeschool Team, leading the Conquerors to the VACA State Championship, showing more toughness than what we can see, with occasional internal flare-ups.

Emma averaged over 20 points per game on the basketball court this season (WSLS)

“Sometimes these flare-ups can be really bad, sometimes not too bad and in many ways, Emma is playing through pain a lot,” said Brett Snyder, Emma’s father and assistant basketball coach.

She perseveres through it all, not because of her love of the game, but something bigger than any win, score or play.

“Definitely my relationship with God. Being able to rely on him a lot,” Emma said.

She recalls two mission trips with her dad in India, that humbled her and changed her outlook.

“You feel self-pity. You’re like ‘Look at me I can’t play this sport’ then you go to a third-world country and you’re like ‘Wow, these women have to walk an hour to a river and back carrying big jugs,’” Emma said.

The appreciation she gained led to an even bigger revelation: Sports aren’t everything.

But, “Sports will always be a part of my life and I can use that in so many different ways to help everyone around me,” said Emma.

Just as they have helped her with some key wins in life.

“When I look to her, I learn lessons even as her dad in watching how she reacts to this and I’m humbled. There’s still that sobering aspect and pride in seeing her rise up and continue plugging along and maintaining a good sportsman attitude,” said Brett.

Emma not only led the Conquerors to the VACA State Championship game, but she helped them earn the State Title and was named the MVP of the game.

Emma was named MVP in the Conquerors VACA State Championship win (WSLS)

For more information on Rare Disease Day, click here.

For more information on Chronic recurrent multifocal osteomyelitis, click here.

Here’s a look at the full sit down with Emma and her Dad, Brett:

About the Author:

Eric is no stranger to the Roanoke Valley. He is a Roanoke native and proud graduate of William Fleming High School.