LONDONDERRY — Ric Blake knew that his thyroid cancer would eventually take his life. But that didn't stop him from living life to the fullest.
Blake, 66, died yesterday after battling the disease for 16 years.
"He has always been very positive about living life to the fullest," Diane Blake, his wife of 43 years said last night. "I don't think he ever wasted a moment of his life. He was always doing something."
Not only did he pledge to live life to the fullest after doctors told him in 2001 that his disease was no longer responding to treatment, he became known as a relentless advocate for both thyroid-cancer patients and end-of-life care for those who have a poor prognosis but who are not ready for hospice.
His journey with the terminal illness and his outreach work was chronicled in an Eagle-Tribune series called "Living Well to The End,'' which began in 2001.
Blake was diagnosed with a rare form of thyroid cancer in October 1995. A year later, he co-founded a national thyroid-cancer survivors network called ThyCa and opened the world's first thyroid-cancer support group in Boston. The network continues to operate today and has grown into an international operation, Diane Blake said.
Five years into his battle with thyroid cancer, Blake learned that the "magic bullet'' radioactive iodine treatment that had been keeping his cancer at bay had stopped working.
When the reality hit that his illness was terminal, the news initially knocked him off his bearings, but it soon led to his quest for good comfort care and the realization that it does not exist as a whole package. Eventually, it led to his decision to share his story.
Through the newspaper series, he said he wanted to turn the public's attention to patients' rights and end-of-life care — including the pain control, emotional support, and complementary medicine that he believes should be available to every seriously and terminally ill person from the moment of diagnosis.