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Sharp Health News

A cancer diagnosis brought them together

Sept. 11, 2019

Snooky Rico and Don

Snooky Rico and Don “Dongo” Rice formed a friendship after cancer diagnoses brought them together.

Snooky Rico and Don “Dongo” Rice grew up just miles from each other in the South Bay, but they might never have met if they hadn’t both received the most difficult news of their lives: They had cancer.

Both were treated at the Douglas & Nancy Barnhart Cancer Center at Sharp Chula Vista Medical Center — Snooky for breast cancer in 2014, and Don for throat cancer in 2006 and again for colon cancer in 2016.

After finishing treatment, Snooky and Don were grateful to receive the all-clear and return to their lives. Rico owns a popular Chula Vista hair salon and enjoys spending time with her children and grandchildren. Rice, who retired from a career in landscaping, is an avid collector of surfing and sports memorabilia and enjoys being with his wife and dog.

With their cancer diagnoses behind them, they never forgot their experiences and decided they wanted to help others facing the disease. Snooky transformed a room in her salon to provide makeup and wig styling services for women who have lost their hair due to cancer treatment. Meanwhile, Don counseled newly diagnosed patients and volunteered with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

As seen on TV
It wasn’t until Don saw Snooky on TV that their paths connected.

“I saw an episode of ‘Returning the Favor’ where Mike Rowe did a surprise remodel of Snooky’s special room in her hair salon. On the show, he shared that Snooky is a cancer survivor who works with ladies who have lost their hair as a result of cancer treatment. I thought, ‘Wow, what a great lady!’ I went to her salon to introduce myself and gave her a poem I had written, inspired by my treatment.”

“Dongo was so kind to bless me with the beautiful gift of his poem that hundreds of women have now read,” Snooky says. “I was so inspired by his story of being a two-time cancer survivor and giving back to others. I felt an instant connection to him — like a brother and friend.”

The two stay in touch and have plans to work together through Snooky’s nonprofit organization, Loving You Through It.

“Snooky works in her salon and donates not only wigs, but also her knowledge, experience and time. I’m a proud, old surfer to be associated with someone like her, and I look forward to helping her make a difference for more people in our community,” says Don.

“I believe Dongo and I formed a connection because we both use our gifts to serve others,” Snooky says. “I know Dongo feels the same way I do that we’ve been blessed with a second chance in life.”

Sharp Chula Vista Medical Center delivers the South Bay’s most comprehensive cancer care with exceptional skill, advanced technology and compassion. To learn more or to find a doctor, visit

For the news media: To talk with Snooky Rico or Don Rice, contact Erica Carlson, senior public relations specialist, at

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