The words "cancer" and "blessing" are rarely paired, and while Josh Pearson of Richland knows it sounds weird to most people, he says there are positives to having Stage 4 glioblastoma, an aggressive form of brain cancer.
Pearson, 37, worked as a marine engineer on tug boats pulling barges the size of a football field with up to 3.5 million gallons of fuel. He loved the ocean and the work but would be gone for eight months out of the year for more than 40 days at a time, away from his wife Elizabeth, daughter Emma, 11, and son Joey, 8.
When Joey lost his eye in a freak accident, Pearson was at sea. By "sheer dumb luck," he happened to be near Anacortes and was able to meet his family in Seattle the next day, but he easily could have been anywhere from Alaska to Hawaii.
"Now, every day, I get to wake up with my family. I get to watch everybody grow up and have a good time. I get to be a part of their lives every single day, and that's truly a wonderful feeling," he said while flipping a strawberry pancake for Joey on Saturday morning.
Outside, three workers from Senske Lawn & Tree Care in Kennewick were decking the Pearsons' home with Christmas lights.
Senske supervisor Jack Manis said the Tri-Cities Cancer Center contacted the Kennewick company about donating its holiday decor to the Pearsons as a token of appreciation for Josh, who volunteers at the center whenever his handyman skills are needed there.
"If it brightens up their holiday, it's worth it," said Manis, who volunteered his time to help set up the display.
It's a concept familiar to Pearson, who's looking for more people in the community to help out -- people he says aren't as blessed as he is with skills, money or energy to fix leaking sinks and other odd jobs around their homes.
While the baseball-sized tumor in his left temporal lobe grew back after surgery, radiation and chemotherapy in July 2011, he's already beyond the 13 months patients with this type of cancer typically live after diagnosis.
"As long as I keep trucking, I want to help make the time I have special for everybody," he says. "With my condition, I can either curl up on the couch or stay active and help some people out."
If you know somebody who could use Pearson's help, email him at email@example.com.