Richard Maddox is a board certified, ordained minister and chaplain at M. D. Anderson Cancer Center. His specialty area is providing pastoral care to pediatrics cancer patients and their families. He is also assigned to the thoracic service.
What motivated you to enter Chaplaincy as a career?
I was very much influenced by my CPE experience. Providing spiritual support to patients and their families in the midst of health crises and to the medical staff who served them was humbling, empowering, challenging, and rewarding, all at the same time. I discovered that I was blessed with many of the gifts necessary to journey with those whose lives were being touched by illness and suffering.
What’s the most challenging part of your work?
As the chaplain for the Children's Cancer Hospital, I must accompany children, adolescents, and young adults, and their families, near, at, and after the end of their lives. In such moments, there is so little that can be said or done to address what has to be the ultimate suffering in life - losing a child.
What’s the most rewarding part of your work?
Visiting with patients and their families following active treatment when they return to the hospital for a checkup, and they share how they are enjoying and living life to the fullest. Inevitably, they all seem to have a much greater appreciation for family and the simple things in life.
What do you find to be the most helpful when visiting with a cancer patient?
Having the opportunity to sit with the patient when he/she is alone, not interrupted by another staff member, and without the presence of a family member or friend, so that he/she can freely share what it feels like to be living with and fighting cancer.
What spiritual or religious resource do you find most personally helpful?
I continue to find the Christian Scriptures to be the most helpful. There are so many stories and experiences in the Scriptures which give me and my patients a glimpse into the nature and manner of God - not so much as to how God would have us act but more to whom God is and can be for us.
What personal characteristics do you believe make an effective chaplain?
Being an intentional and active listener; being open to diversity; being sensitive to and understanding of multiple perspectives; having compassion when no one else does.
Are there spiritual/religious topics you personally wrestle with?
(1) Substitutionary atonement for sin (2) The lack of biblical support for people knowing, recognizing, and interacting with loved ones in the after life (3) Human suffering as an inherent part of God's creation
What would you like cancer patients and their families to know about M. D. Anderson?
While striving to maintain MDACC as a world-renowned center for providing cancer diagnosis, treatment, and care, the MDACC staff equally embrace that the journey itself of every patient is as important as how that journey ends. Or as someone once said, "There is something worse than dying - and that is dying without ever having lived."