All cancer is horrible… particularly head and neck cancer. My husband endured tremendous pain, disfigurement, loss of taste, ability to eat and swallow and most importantly the ability to talk. The silence was the hardest part for him. He died July 3, 2013.
Unfortunately, the cancer returned. The cancer had spread to the larynx and esophagus. This time, cancer took more of him. The only surgical option was to remove his entire pharynx, which included his voice box. His esophagus was reconstructed so that he could eat. He breathed through a hole in his neck. More disfigurement, more pain, and now silence. He communicated by writing on his white board. He wasn’t a candidate for any type of artificial voice because of the radiation scarring and where the tumors had grown. For over two years, he continued with weekly chemo treatments. His esophagus narrowed significantly from scarring. Food could not be swallowed and would get stuck in the narrowing esophagus and need to be removed by his surgeon. Dan endured 8 esophageal dilatations to stretch the opening so that he could eat. Chemotherapy treatments became an issue, too. Two ports and a picc line got infected landing him in the hospital each time. Finally, the only option was to give the chemo drugs directly through his veins. His veins eventually collapsed. His body was broken down but still not his spirit.
It started with an inability to clear his throat and a lump in his neck. After months of procrastinating before making an appointment to see the doctor, the first thought was that it was only swollen glands. Two rounds of antibiotics later, a biopsy was done and cancer officially entered our life. Dan was diagnosed and staged with an aggressive Stage IV tonsil and throat cancer. He was treated at Fox Chase Cancer Center with chemotherapy and daily radiation. Every day the side effects of treatment grew…loss of hair, loss of taste, loss of appetite, radiation burns so severe that there were oozing blisters, and an inability to swallow. Treatment protocol also called for neck dissection surgery. Lymph nodes were removed. All seemed clear. Dan had slight disfigurement but we thought he had made it.
Dan Rich was a husband, father of two, entrepreneur, coach, amateur musician and friend to many. He had a dry wit, keen intelligence and a strong point of view. He was passionate and vocal about things that were important to him. He was also a cancer patient. During the last six years of his life, his perspective was “I am living with cancer not dying of cancer.” He never complained. He bullied through each day. He was our rock during our (his) toughest times. Dan’s cancer story began in 2008…
April 25,1963 - July 3, 2013
Dan and Sean
Dan and Lindsey
Dance Recital 2010
Our Family at the Grand Canyon 2012
Memorial Fund for The Treatment and Research of Head & Neck Cancer
Dan’s Voice.org was founded to honor this man who suffered in silence and approached each day with a mentally strong attitude. There was never self-pity or complaints. Cancer took many things from him but not his passion for living, and loving his family and friends. We as a family witnessed his transformation from a healthy vibrant man with a big voice, strong point of view and passionate personality to an end-stage cancer patient with many medical needs. My goal is to help others who are afflicted with this disease to achieve a level of care, comfort and support to overcome the daily hardships.
When cancer took his ability to speak, I became his voice…now his story is mine to tell.
Thank you for listening.
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