Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Whack-A-Mole Therapy

My recent experience with targeted radiation therapy for several symptomatic metastases scattered throughout my body reminds me of the popular (and personally frustrating) "Whac-A-Mole" game that I have played with my grandchildren at the pizza parlor or video arcade. The grandkids can usually beat grandpa at this game :-)

With the decision not to pursue additional forms of chemotherapy (each of which offers diminishing likelihood of remission of the cancer accompanied by increased likelihood of significant toxicity), we continued to pursue targeted radiation therapy for the more symptomatic lesions (outside the brain). I have had several of these (including lesions located over the left cheek bone, both arm pits, left medial thigh, and a more recent particularly troublesome one deep in the left pelvis). The left pelvic lesion caused rather severe episodes of pain, prompting ER visits to rule out diverticulitis or kidney stones. It ultimately showed up on a PET-CT as a growing lesion deep in the pelvic musculature.

Consultation with the radiation oncologist led to consideration of yet an additional targeted course of radiation therapy to the left pelvic region, but by the time the mapping imaging studies were completed, the pain had substantially subsided. I am grateful for the reprieve but fully understand that this or any of the other dozens of metastases could become more symptomatic at any time.

So I have decided it is time to stop trying to whack each mole as it sticks its ugly head out of yet another susceptible recess of my body. We are transitioning to hospice care with home health nurse visits to assist in pain management and other supportive services as needed.

In the midst of these circumstances I am reminded of a tender conversation between Jesus and Peter along the shores of Galilee shortly after His resurrection (John 21:1-19). Jesus prepares a grilled fish breakfast for His disciples and during an intimate conversation with Peter reveals something of his future: "Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were younger, you used to gird yourself and walk wherever you wished; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands and someone else will gird you, and bring you where you do not wish to go. Now this He said, signifying by what kind of death he would glorify God. And when He had spoken this, He said to him, "Follow Me!"

We are not promised a future of our choosing, but urged to choose to follow the One who holds that future in His loving hands. Recognizing God's sovereignty in our lives and His active grace that has brought me through many more months of quality and enriching life experiences over the last two years while battling this devastating cancer, I am constantly seeking the best path to glorify Him. Resting in His faithfulness, I have abandoned the strategy of anxiously whacking each mole and look forward to the challenge and promise of what it means to simply follow Him each new day.

Thanks for your companionship on this journey,
Dr Dan

PS -- Linda has been a steadfast, encouraging, energetic and wise companion through these recent events. I could not be more grateful for the gift I have in her.


  1. I want you to know how much you mean to the Richards Family, how much we miss having you as our doctor, and how we are praying for you and your family. You are an inspiration, and the lessons you have taught me will always be with me -- I only hope that one day I will be able to give to others as much as you have been able to give to those fortunate enough to have known you. You have truly enriched the lives of those who have known you, and I am so grateful for the opportunity to have had you in my life. God Bless You, Dr. Dan! -- Jenny Richards

  2. Dr. Dan and Linda,
    I want you to know how much you all mean to us and I am thanking you for giving us the opportunity to travel with you and your family on this journey of faith and inspiration. You are both so loved very much. What you have taught me on this journey will always be remembered. You have enriched my life as well as others and I am grateful for the opportunity to have known you. Thank you for being our doctor back in Michigan. You are the best!! God bless you and your family. Our prayers are with you and your family...Susan Burtin

  3. You're brave to accept the path that God has set before you with such peace and grace. What an amazing family you have to support you and see you through until the end. I cried after reading your last post. The finality of that decision is heartbreaking, but at the same time, it's joyful knowing that you may soon see our Savior! I cried again at church while I was up on stage singing before you. I watched you bow your head while I sang and wondered what you were thinking and wanted to hug you and tell you to say hi to Jesus for me when you get there. I pray that the end of the journey for you is not too painful, that God would spare you certain things since you have been a faithful servant through this. I pray that His peace will surround you until it surrounds you oh so completely forever. Blessings.

  4. Hi Dr. C: Your latest blog really got to me. I started to cry. You are such a smart and wise man, its not fair. You are one of the best doctor I have known. I am not giving up, I will keep praying for you. There are miracles out there,maybe just one for you.

    A Friend.

  5. Hello Dr. Dan,

    Keeping you and your family in my prayers. Wishing you the peace of the Holy's all about our walk of Faith. You are never alone.

    Debbie Hennessy

  6. Ahhhhhhhhhhh..."whack a mole"...a frustrating game for Woody also. We were laughing about that game just the other night...not sure how it happened to come up...but it did. He played it once at Opryland...many, many years ago...and at that time our children were better at the game than I'm sure that the grands would be...he just hasn't ever had the "opportunity" to play it again!

    Your last two posts have been heart wrenching for me to read for so many heart goes out to you and your family in all the decisions that you are presently having to make and imagining what you are physically having to go through...and then I can't help but project ourselves into your scenario as the probable road that we will be on at some point in the not far enough (for me) future.

    This is a horrible, no good disease!!!! (To put it mildly!)

    My thoughts and prayers are with you and Linda and the rest of the your family.

  7. Like St. Paul, you know how to be at ease in whatever circumstances you find yourself in, and to follow Jesus' command not to worry. You know your future, and know that you have already won the prize of the high calling in Jesus Christ. Your body may be ravaged, but your spirit has never been stronger! You fight the good fight of faith, in the whole armour of God. Others who must walk the road of pain and suffering later in their lives will model themselves after your example. You give no ground to the enemy, no despair, no loss of faith, and use very effectively a self-deprecating sense of humor. I hope you publish all your writings and art work. I would be proud to have such a book in my home.

  8. Thank you for your continued encouragement to us all in this walk of faith and trust in our wise and loving God. You and your family are a shining example. May you know His peace, grace and strength in abundance! Goree

  9. Dan,
    you have a gift for making us smile even through the tears...whack a mole? Your insight and humor are inspiring. Our prayers continue to be with you and Linda and your family during this time.
    Lisa Colvin

  10. Dan,
    I echo the thoughts of anonymous on 1/15 at 12:03 are and have done all of that and that's very hard for even most Christians to do and yet , you do it all with such peace and faith, wisdom and grace. ITs because of what you have walked through, ( emotionally, physically and spiritually and because of the close encounter you have had with JESUS on this walk and learning of HIS ways, HIS timing, HIS purposes, HIS outcome ) that you walk totally relinquished and abandoned to HIS will and why you can have such peace. NOT many can do or have done that in situations like you have been through. What is such a beacon of light that I see in you through this is your ability to look beyond yourself and have the JOY OF THE LORD as your strength....Your sense of humor and finding the good, the positive and the wisdom in
    what GOD is teaching you through this ...TRIUMPHS WAY ABOVE any pain, any complaining, any anger or bitterness towards a GOD that would allow this. You welcome HIS will, even though it's hard and painful with many crossroad of decisions you have to make , not to mention the physical pain and symptoms you have to wade through as you pray about next steps and so you are truly amazing and an inspiration and I only hope and pray I can take away from you and learn how to rejoice in the rough and hard times ..........thank you so much for your example to learn from......
    Prayers continuing daily for you and your family with smiles, with thanksgiving to a faithful GOD and sometimes with many burdensome tears when I think how much you are going through and how much you will be missed someday. Audrey

  11. Dan & Linda
    Kevin & I keep reading your God-inspired blog with amazing amounts of wisdom. I hope you guys are going to publish this- we will all have this journey someday. I thank God for knowing you even for this short time in my life.
    Love to you both
    Pam Etter

  12. There is not enough space to put into words how I feel about you and your family. You are a fine example of a dedicated family man as well as a follower of christ! I have followed your blog and have looked forward to the many posts that you so bravely and intelligently submitted to all to read. I am sadened for you and happy at the same time, you have made me realize so much and I thank you for that. I wish you painless and happy days as you continue on your journey with God! Bless you brave one!