Sunday, October 19, 2008

Clay in His hands

When I think about all that’s taken place since last I wrote, several words come to mind: exhaustion, sadness, heartbreak, fear. But there are others: mercy, love, peace, grace! As trite as it may sound, God always provides an escape. What a great and mighty God, the One who balances the universe! You may be wondering what real good can be found in Daniel’s world; well, there’s plenty, and we’ll get to that later. But first, a few of the highlights . . .

After Daniel’s last discharge from Vanderbilt, he had several good days. His pain was largely controlled, and he received IV fluids daily. Talking was minimal, but he was blessed to share with a couple of friends with his pen. On the night of Wednesday, October 8, he hardly slept at all. The next morning we gave him a medication that the doctor had suggested might help him rest; it was also expected to relieve his severe myoclonus, the sudden jerking you sometimes experience as you are about to fall asleep (in Daniel’s case possibly brought on by pain medications). Unfortunately, the drug made him confused and afforded him very little sleep. All day Thursday he struggled with this effect. On Thursday evening we noticed that Daniel’s breathing wasn’t quite right; there was a distinctly different noise as he exhaled. We observed him closely and decided to wait and see. In the early hours of Friday morning, we felt Daniel had not really improved and opted to take him to a local ER. The first and most obvious problem was his oxygen level. It was only 78 and well out of the normal range. While we were there, the doctor gave Daniel a medicine to reverse the effects of the "sleeping" pill. She also ordered oxygen for home. Daniel left the ER with an oxygen tank and feeling much more alert, yet spent.

The next several hours were key, as Daniel continued to feel horrible. He had no energy and, while more lucid, was too tired to communicate most of the time. By Friday evening and with the help of a dear friend who came to examine him, we decided that another quick ER trip might be in order. Good call. A chest x-ray was ordered, and the doctor carefully and gently explained the results to us. A large volume of fluid was compressing one of Daniel’s lungs (pleural effusion), and it was believed to be a product of the cancer. He had two options: he could do nothing and eventually die from not being able to breathe, or he could have the fluid drained. The doctor explained that most likely the fluid would return anyway, and Daniel would, at some point, have to decide when to stop having it drained. I find myself at times like this waiting to hear about choice C, but it was never offered. After asking the family’s opinion, he decided to try the drainage especially considering he was still taking chemotherapy. After all, what IF the chemo actually worked this time? The doctor also explained that draining the fluid should improve Daniel’s breathing, at least for a while.

The procedure was set for Saturday morning. It was a great success; the doctor removed approximately two liters of fluid. Daniel felt better almost immediately.

The doctor told Daniel that the fluid was beginning to reaccumulate by the next day, so on Monday the procedure was repeated resulting in the drainage of almost another whole liter of fluid. The doctor was kind enough to let me stay in the room during both procedures and help hold Daniel. What an honor! He barely had the strength to sit up in the bed while the needle was placed. He leaned forward and held onto me sometimes grabbing my collar as he began experiencing intense pain. As soon as the doctor was finished, he ordered a chest x-ray to confirm the source of pain. Unfortunately, during the procedure Daniel developed a pneumothorax, a puncture of the lung, which caused air to escape into the space previously occupied by the fluid. Only the lower left lobe was affected, and the doctor explained that Daniel would need to have a chest tube inserted into the space to allow the air to escape. The procedure and its possible complications sounded rough for someone in Daniel’s physical condition, but the doctor had given the worst-case scenario. Daniel had to decide whether to have the surgery locally or return to Vanderbilt. After brief consideration, he said he would have it done here. (He really wasn’t well enough for the trip.) By the way, the level of care Daniel has received locally is equal to or greater than what he received at Vanderbilt; he is being treated by the doctor with whom he practices, and there has never been a kinder, more compassionate, or more competent provider than he. The surgeon was in and out in a matter of fifteen or twenty minutes, and there were no complications. I could hear a pop as the air was released. The tube was left in place to remove the remaining air until the lung seals itself. We soon found out that the tube has a dual function, which is to drain the fluid as it returns. The tube is still in place, and there is no immediate plan to remove it. I called Dr. Gilbert to tell her what was going on, and she said to stop the chemotherapy for now because it hinders wound healing. Of course, this was a disappointment, but Daniel trusts her completely with his care.

Over the next few days, Daniel’s condition improved from the standpoint of breathing easier, but he stayed in bed almost all the time. One evening we helped him out of bed to use the bathroom, and we were all reminded again how sick he really is. He could barely support his own weight. By the time Daniel was back in bed, the look on his face spoke of his excruciating pain – mostly from his right hip. You will remember that the cancer has returned to the right hip in the exact same spots as before, not to mention all the hardware in his hip that can cause discomfort. Shortly after that episode, the decision was made to increase his pain medications, a real mixed blessing. Mixed because on the one hand Daniel has better pain control, but on the other he sleeps most of the time.

Most of Daniel’s doctors have made it perfectly clear that we should focus on his comfort. They tell us he is dying. This is not new information. Daniel posted sometime ago that he was given six to nine months to live. It’s funny how we say the doctor gave a person this amount of time or that. Doctors don’t give time. It is not theirs to give. And surely even the ones who have no faith in God know that. As a friend pointed out yesterday, doctors can tell us what HAS been and what IS, but it is our faith that tells us what CAN be.

We are not deluded by Daniel’s condition. Neither is he. And you will be happy to know that his mind is sharp. But to repeat myself from an earlier post, Daniel has chosen and we have agreed as a family that we will continue to believe in the possibility of physical healing as long as Daniel has breath. While to many folks this may seem unrealistic, naïve, and uneducated, to us it is a way to support Daniel and honor God. At no time have we doubted what God CAN do. What he WILL do is up to Him. But what we MUST do is pray. Tonight we gathered around Daniel’s bed as a family and prayed. A couple of minutes after we finished, Daniel called us back over to his side and said, "Let’s do it again." When I asked him what we should pray for specifically, he said, "Healing; I still want to be healed!" We prayed for his complete physical healing, always respecting and bringing attention to God’s will. Please join with us in this prayer.

A few nights ago, I feared Daniel would be leaving us at any moment, but today I am reminded that he is still clay in God’s hands. Let the Potter work His good will!

Thank you all for your continued prayers. We will be forever grateful for your love.

God bless,


"Yet, O LORD, you are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand." -Isaiah 64:8


Tiffany Madish said...

Dear Daniel, Doug, and family, I feel like I can't find the words to describe my feelings right now. I can only say that I have such respect for you and your family, Daniel, at how you've decided to face the path ahead of you. Your faith in God and His will is the most precious testimony that I have ever witnessed. I share it with everyone I know. I know that you feel Him holding you and guiding you. I continue to pray for the Lord to heal you, and lift each one of you up.
My heart is filled each time I read you and your brother's words. Keep fighting the fight. I am so proud of you and your family for the strength you all exude. Your actions and faith in Jesus Christ are the most admirable, and you are setting such a wonderful example at how each of us should turn our lives over and trust in Him completely.
I'm holding you and your family close in prayer.
God Bless!!
Tiffany Madish

ashley said...

I will not stop praying for your healing. I BELIEVE in the name of our LORD JESUS CHRIST you are healed! May it be so in this very moment.The Lord is good and His mercies never fail! I love you!

Nancy said...


Daniel and your entire family are in my prayers and many from Poplar Grove Baptist here in Cookeville, TN are praying as well. Nothing is too difficult for God.

Nancy Bohannon

Anonymous said...

Still praying for healing and for strength for your family. May the "peace of God which transcends all understanding guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." Phil 4:7 Holly Tims FHBC

Rochelle said...

Smith Family,
My thoughts and prayers are with you everyday, many times a day.
Please feel my love and support as you are there with Daniel. Tell him I am praying for complete healing and strength for his family to keep their faith in God.

Anonymous said...

thank u so much for the update. I check each day as prayers go out 2 u all, i can't help but think of Job whenever I think of Daniel. I know OUR LORD has a wonderful plan for Daniel, I keep reminding myself "He never gives us more than we can carry," just like "footprints in the sand" He carries us in His wonderous arm. May u all be blessed. your friend Nancy Tobola

Anonymous said...

I want you to know that all of West Tennessee is praying for you. I think of you so often, and check several times a day to see how you are. We are praying for you and love you so VERY much.

Love, Laurie (TCS/Aspect 'mom')

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the update! I check for ones all the time! You and your family are in my thoughts and prayers. I pray God will continue to comfort you and give you strength.

Tamara Batson

Robert and Kim Marascalco said...

Daniel, Doug and family,
Robert and I have been trying to follow you all through Tammy and are so gratefull that we have been brought together. We are both so grateful for the good days you have and share with you all as we know the wonderful things God can do and has done. We will never give up the hope for God's healing for Daniel and always pray for his will as well we hope that Daniel continues to have the rest and comfort that he has had over the last few days. Your families faith and strenght gave us strength when we needed it the most and we hope we can help when you need us. Daniel has helped Robert so very much being such a possitive light in such dark times. God has us with the grace that Daniel has shown, Such selflessnes that he has, putting everyone elses feelings above his own. It is such a wonderful thing to see such strong faith and love in someone. To God be the glory that we have been blessed to have known Daniel. My heart bursts with both happiness and sadness as we read you beautiful words that so truly describe the love that you have for your brother and for the Lord. May God bless you and your family, keep Daniel comfortable and continue to show his wonderful mercy. Continue to turn it over to Jesus and be clay in the potter's hands, lay it all at his feet. we love you all. Kim and Robert Marascalco

Bev said...

Daniel has treated me and my children in the office on several occasions with great kindness and compassion. I cannot tell you how it pains me to learn of all he is going through. I also cannot imagine as a parent what it must feel like to see your child in pain and be unable to stop it, but I know that God knows. Therefore, I am praying that God will comfort you and Daniel throughout this illness as only God can and I am praying along with you that God will heal Daniel.

Leah said...

Daniel, Doug and family...thank you for the update. I have had you all on my mind and on my heart alot in the past two weeks. I was driving back to Knoxville from Memphis this weekend and had planned to stop by the hospital in Cookeville but found out you had been discharged. Since I didn't know how to reach your family otherwise I came on home. I prayed for you as I drove past the Livingston and Cookeville exits. Your faith and perseverance is a challenge to me to have more faith in our Lord. I continue to pray for your complete healing! I know he can do abundantly more than we ever think or ask. Daniel, you are so loved and covered in prayers.

Love always,
Leah McRae

Katie said...

I and the nurses here in the infusion room have (and will continue) to pray for you.


Robert Marascalco said...

To Daniel, Doug, and family. My heart yearns and breaks for Daniel's and yall's pain but then again rejoices for your never ending faith in our Father and Daddy. I want so bad to come and see Daniel but don't want to get in the way of your care for him. Please let him know what a difference his faith made in so many family's here at my house. I think about Daniel so mant times a day and continue to text him hoping that he might have the streghnth to text back one day soon. I continue to wear a Live strong bracelet everyday in my remeberance of the pain Daniel is going through and continue to hit my knees and ask for a recovery of Daniels battered body. I know one day we will all rejoice and worship together in a painless kingdom of our Father. I can't hold my tears back as I know that yall have spent so many as well when I think about this whole road that Daniel and I have walked. I pray and ask God continual why He cured me and not Daniel. I am not questing God.s will just praying that He will give Daniel the samr mercy that He gave me. You all are aften in my thoughts so mant times a day. Please let me know if there is anything else I can do for you or Daniel. We are in daily prayer for you all. Robert Marascalco 601-842-4115

Anonymous said...

Dear Daniel-
I don't expect you to remember me, I went to your church a few times in Nashville at the suggestion of some mutual friends (Shay, Chris)several years ago. Anyway, I was heavy-hearted to learn about your illness and the struggle you have been going through. I just wanted to tell you that I appreciate your friendliness to me and your outgoing nature to show God's love. Thank you. I am praying for you and your family constantly for peace and healing. Thank you for being such a wonderful example of strength and courage.
Ashley Beals Pace

Nicole said...

I don't know you personally but you worked with a friend of mine. You are in my daily prayers! His mercies NEVER fail!

Anonymous said...

What an inspiration your faith and perseverance are, Daniel! I am praying every day for your healing and that your pain would be controlled. I am praying for Doug and your other family and friends as they walk through this with you and care for you. I share your amazing faith with people every day and they pray as well - and are so encouraged by your walk and how you long to share Christ with everyone. The LORD is mighty to save!!! "The kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of POWER!" -1 Cor 4:20 (emphasis mine). in our Jesus, Liz Nacozy Wessel

Alison said...

We could never explain quite how your battle has touched so many you may never even meet. So many at our church ask for an update about you at each gathering and you can see their concern for this incredible young man they have come to know only through beloved stories and your blog. We love you Daniel.
I can't even imagine your struggle. We pray your pain may miraculously be gone. We pray that you will be able to say anything and all that you want to share. Our little family thinks of you daily. Our little ones pray for Mr. Daniel every night.
We pray for your healing without fail. We know God knows what work he has left for you. Still, If He chooses to take you home, my heart already feels to bursting for the young man he will catch up in his arms and swing around and kiss with joy and say, "Well done, son, well done."
We love you, Chris, Alison, Walden, and Ella Hicks

Robert Marascalco said...

Doug these are the words from Casting Crown's son Prayer for a friend. I think about yall so much. May God's Holy spirit and mercy find all of you today. Robert

Lord I lift my friend to You.
I've done all that I know to do.
I lift my friend, to You.
Complicated circumstances
have clouded his view.
Lord I lift my friend up to You.

I fear that I won’t have the words
that he needs to hear.
I pray for Your wisdom , oh God.
And a heart that's sincere.
And Lord I lift my friend up
to You.

Lord I lift my friend to You.
My best friend in the
world, I know he means much
more to You.
I want so much to help him, but
this is something he has to do.
Lord I lift my friend up to You.

There's a way that seems so right to him.
But You know where that leads.
He's becoming a puppet of the world.
Too blind to see the strings.
And Lord I lift my friend up to You.

Lord I lift my friend to You.
I've done all that I know to do.
I lift my friend, to You.

Travis said...

We are continuing to pray for you and your family! May God's healing hand touch you and may His Will be done! We love you! Beth & Travis

Anonymous said...

Daniel, Doug and family,
Doug you definately inherited your gift of words straight from your brother. Thank you for reminding us all that Daniel is still the CLAY in HIS hands. We admire you all and we continue to pray for complete physical healing and God's will. Please share our love and prayers with Daniel. You are all so very close to our hearts.
In Him,
Tammy and the MS family

Anonymous said...

My thoughts and prayers are with you always. I will continue to pray for healing and strength. I know He is there with Daniel every step of the way. He is a truly wonderful God. -Pam

Anonymous said...

The Clift family is also praying at home and in our churches. We love Daniel and would love to see Daniel healed. We also know that God is in charge of this life too. We admire the love and devotion of your family. Sonia Clift

Barbara said...

Surrender all, may the Lord pour his loving Grace on you from head to toe. May he give comfort to you and yours. And know Daniel that no matter what , he sees you, he knows you, and he loves you.

Anonymous said...

I am an acquaintance from Vanderbilt's School of Nursing. I always saw God's light and love in Daniel's eyes. I know that angels sang joyful songs today and GOD embraced Daniel, as we, humans,cry our tears. I just summoned the courage to read Daniel's blog. I had been praying for him as I kept up with him through friends. I am not surprised to read about his faith and witness.It is and was apparent. It showed in his daily walk at VUSN. I am honored to have met him and to read his story and his family and friends comments. He will always be remembered as a light in the world who showed the love of Christ.

Anonymous said...

I have just heard that Daniel has passed away into the arms of Jesus....Though my heart breaks for the family, I am thankful that Daniel doesn't have to suffer any more. The kingdom of God was so impacted by his life. There are not enough words to say about Daniel. I am thankful that he was a part of our life for a "moment". May God bless the family and friends left behind and may they carry the mantle that Daniel laid down. My prayers are with you all! If any of the family gets on here, Please share funeral information.....

Anonymous said...

Daniel - I don't know if you remember me but I worked with you at Aspect back in the day. Laurie Tucker (Mom) pointed me to your blog. I always admired your faith even back then & as I have read your blog see how it has become even more powerful through your trials. I am praying for you and your family during this time. You are a very special man and God is glorified through you.

Alicia (Bigham) Bright