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One man's 7-year battle with cancer yielded gratitude, a 'thankful app' despite the hardships

Published: Sunday, July 5 2015 4:00 a.m. MDT

Rich and Amy Goade (Courtesy of Amy Goade, Netell Photography) Rich and Amy Goade (Courtesy of Amy Goade, Netell Photography)

Even as Rich Goade faced death after a seven-year battle with cancer, he wasn’t thinking about his own pain and difficulties. He was one to reach out to others and to express gratitude for what he had.

“Even the day that he died, he was still asking people how their day was,” said Rich’s wife, Amy Goade, in an interview with Deseret News. “He was always asking them how they were doing, what their plans were, and he was dying.”

In April 2006, Rich was diagnosed with stage IV colon cancer. Doctors gave him the probability of living two to five more years, but he outlived their predictions and lived seven more years. Rich died on May 2, 2013, his 41 birthday.

But during the Goade family's fight with cancer, Rich, Amy and their three daughters chose to be positive and show thanks as he worked through cancer treatments, which helped carry them through the challenges they faced.

Rich and Amy Goade are flanked by their daughters, Madison, McKenna and Rosie. (Courtesy of Amy Goade, Netell Photography) Rich and Amy Goade are flanked by their daughters, Madison, McKenna and Rosie. (Courtesy of Amy Goade, Netell Photography)

“Everybody has trials. Everybody has tragedies,” Amy said. “That’s why we come to this earth, and we came to a place where we realized we weren’t being picked on, that this was just the deal. … And so we found something that worked for us, and that was to count our blessings and to notice what was good. … It helped us be able to enjoy each other instead of being weighed down by all the fear, it helped lift us up.”

Two years after Rich's diagnosis, the Goade family moved from Washington to Lehi, Utah. In facing the challenges that accompanied cancer, the family worked at expressing gratitude for blessings.

“I remember when he first was diagnosed, we had a month, I will never forget, it was a very dark month where we just felt like our whole world was coming down around us and all our future plans were done,” Amy said. “And I remember praying, and we both felt like we came to a place where we needed to get to work. You know that it was just kind of like, this isn’t helping anything … it’s not helping our family be strong, it’s only hurting us, and so we made a conscious decision that we were just going to go to work.”

Rich and Amy Goade are joined by their daughters, Madison, McKenna and Rosie. (Courtesy of Amy Goade, Netell Photography) Rich and Amy Goade are joined by their daughters, Madison, McKenna and Rosie. (Courtesy of Amy Goade, Netell Photography)

A designer by profession, Rich worked for numerous companies, including Starbucks, Apple, Microsoft and FamilySearch. On the side, he and his brothers, Jerry and Paul, created an app called “thankful,” which allows users to record, store and share what they are thankful for. According to the app’s description online, “Numerous studies have linked counting one’s blessings to healthy and improved mental and physical health.”

Over time, family and friends who supported Rich through his struggles with cancer acquired the name “Team Goade.” The group showed support by including the hashtag #thankful in its social media use.

“We use the hashtag #thankful a lot every time that we say we’re thankful for,” Amy said. “It’s been fun to see that kind of branching out. We’ve been seeing it places where people we don’t know are using it too, and I don’t know if it had anything to do with us, but it’s been fun to see. … Maybe it could spread from there and really help people be thankful for what is good in the world.”

Madison, McKenna and Rosie Goade play with their father, Rich. (Courtesy of Amy Goade, Netell Photography) Madison, McKenna and Rosie Goade play with their father, Rich. (Courtesy of Amy Goade, Netell Photography)

Rich joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints when he was 18-years-old. He was quick to turn to the scriptures to find comfort during his suffering, and his faith helped give him and his friends and family perspective.

“I remember Rich, he was really struggling, and he decided he was going to read his scriptures just front to back,” Amy said. “And he just, for a couple of weeks just read scriptures front to back, and that was a tool that he used over and over again. When things would get hard, he would start reading his scriptures like crazy, and that would just give him peace. … We have all this bad that’s all we can see, all this hard stuff that we can see, but there’s all this good stuff, too. And over the course of seven years, Heavenly Father really made it clear to us that there was a lot of good.”

Rich Goade cultivated an attitude of thankfulness during his seven-year battle with cancer. His positive outlook is fondly remembered by his friends and family. (Courtesy of Amy Goade, Netell Photography) Rich Goade cultivated an attitude of thankfulness during his seven-year battle with cancer. His positive outlook is fondly remembered by his friends and family. (Courtesy of Amy Goade, Netell Photography)

Amy is thankful to have learned the importance of gratitude and “looking up.”

“September especially was really, really hard for me. And it was hard because I forgot to be thankful, and I didn’t even realize it until a month had gone by that … looking back I realized that I had been getting all these blessings, but I hadn’t even noticed. I didn’t lift my head up to look for them. But as soon as I started looking for the blessings, I stopped being so sad.”

Although Rich is missed by many, the attitude of gratitude he employed continues to bless those who regularly use it.

“I used to think that fighting cancer and watching Rich suffer so much was the hardest thing I would ever have to do, but I have to say that living without him has proven to be harder,” Amy said. “To say that I miss him doesn't begin to explain my feelings. We were high school sweethearts. We were married for more than 20 years. We fought cancer together for seven years. He was my best friend, my confidant, my sweetheart, my comedic relief. He made life fun. I have to fight daily to not let my grief take over.

Rich and Amy Goade (Courtesy of Amy Goade, Netell Photography) Rich and Amy Goade (Courtesy of Amy Goade, Netell Photography)

“The blessing is that I have learned that choosing to look up and be thankful for the joy that surrounds me allows me to balance that grief with joy. It's been a common theme throughout our family's fight with cancer. We have learned that faith always conquers fear. That darkness always gives way to light. I know that to be true, and if I remember to open my eyes, lift up my head and notice, there is light all around me.”

Abby Stevens is a writer for the DeseretNews.com Faith and Family sections. She is a graduate of Brigham Young University–Idaho. Contact her at astevens@deseretdigital.com.

Copyright 2015, Deseret News Publishing Company