Faces of cancer: Richland dad makes sure every minute counts

By Andy Perdue, Tri-City HeraldOctober 16, 2011 

When you face an uphill battle against a deadly disease, you find strength wherever you can.

Josh Pearson of Richland spent eight years in a job where he was gone more than he was home. As he fights brain cancer, he is making every minute count.

"My biggest focus is my wife and kids," said Pearson, 36. "I traveled for eight months a year for the past eight years. Now, I'm home. When my kids get home, we're playing and having a good time."

Pearson, who grew up in Gig Harbor, worked for a company that transported fuel between Alaska, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Hawaii. In good weather, it might take him 15 days to move 80,000 gallons of fuel from the West Coast to Hawaii.

In May, Pearson began to get dizzy spells. At first, he thought it was related to working on the high seas, but when it continued back home, he wondered if it might be a sinus infection.

A month later, his vision became blurry, and he got a CT scan, which revealed a tumor the size of a baseball on the left side of his brain. On July 13, surgeons were able to remove 85 percent of the tumor, and tests showed it was glioblastoma multiforme, or GBM, the most common and aggressive form of brain cancer.

After surgery, he went through six weeks of radiation and six weeks of chemotherapy, which he finished three weeks ago. While he has to wait a few weeks to go through definitive MRI and CT scans, initial results show no new growth in the tumor.

In the meantime, he is making the most of his time.

"We're doing the best we can, staying positive and keeping the faith," he said. "We're just going through each day with a good sense of humor."

His wife, Elizabeth, is taking classes to earn a teaching degree, and his children Emma, 10, and Joey, 7, are busy with gymnastics and Cub Scouts.

"We're living life as normal as possible. We're taking our minds off of what's going on with me."

This summer, Emma went to a camp, and one of the activities was to make silly wigs. So she made one for her daddy, whose hair had fallen out. It is a colorful covering that looks sort of like short dreadlocks. To make Emma happy, he wore it.

Folks at the Tri-Cities Cancer Center in Kennewick liked it so much, other children involved in the Kids Konnection support group are making similar wigs.

Pearson knows he has a tough battle ahead of him.

"I'm a realist, but I'm trying to be hopeful," he said.

He is staying busy working on a few home remodeling projects, and he plays with his children every moment he can.

"They know Dad has cancer and doctors are doing everything they can. We don't want them to worry about losing Dad. They're just tickled pink that I'm home every day instead of being gone eight months out of the year."

-- The lavender ribbon we are using in this series represents awareness of all cancers.

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