As a Christian counselor, Dick English is familiar with the Old Testament story of Job, a man who has everything taken away but refuses to curse God. As a man whose family has been wiped out by cancer, he sees Job as a role model.
Since 1977, English's family has endured six bouts with cancer, and his wife and three sons all have died at the hands of the disease. His last child, Troy, passed away just a few weeks ago.
"People will teasingly call me 'Job,' " English, 68, said with a brief smile. "But the reality is that I'm not on drugs, I'm not buried in denial. I've had some rough times in life, but at the same time, there's so many people who have prayed for and continue to pray for me. There are some rough things in life, but at the same time, there's a whole lot of joy."
English grew up in Rochester, N.Y., and completed college and post-graduate studies on the East Coast before working as a counselor with juvenile delinquents.
His first wife, Peggy, grew up on the West Coast, and they decided to move to Richland in 1977, where he took a job as director of a juvenile delinquency group home. A year later, English opened a private Christian counseling practice, with an office at West Side Church in Richland until 1995.
English and his wife knew there was a history of cancer in her family, but they had no idea how it would affect them. Her grandmother died of breast cancer, and her mom died of leukemia.
Not long after arriving in Richland, the couple's youngest son, Derek, was diagnosed with rhabdomyosarcoma, cancer of the connective tissues. He went through chemotherapy for nearly a year before dying in 1979 at the age of 2.
Six months later, researchers discovered a way to alter the chemo treatments that might have helped him live longer.
Peggy was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1988. She underwent a mastectomy and chemo-therapy, and her cancer went into remission.
Then in 1994, their oldest son, Bill, was diagnosed with a brain tumor. He had radiation and chemotherapy before passing away two years later at the age 25.
Less than 10 years later, Peggy's cancer returned. The Richland school teacher was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Because there was no effective chemotherapy for this particularly nasty cancer, she tried a variety of alternative therapies.
"She was given six to nine months to live," English said. "She lived for two years and three months."
As she battled pancreatic cancer, her breast cancer returned, and she died in July 2007.
The couple's remaining son Troy knew how cancer had taken his mother and brothers, but he preferred to think it wouldn't happen to him.
Then he started having back problems. When he finally went to a doctor for what he thought was a slipped disk, it was much worse.
Lung cancer had metastasized and was eating up four of his vertebrae.
"They were totally amazed he could even walk around," English said.
Troy, who wasn't a smoker, battled the disease for more than two years with chemotherapy, radiation and gamma knife treatment before dying Sept. 10.
"So that leaves me," English said, surrounded by sympathy cards in his modest Richland home.
Some of the joy he still finds in life comes from his three grandchildren, ages 14, 9 and 7, and his daughter-in-law, Steffani.
But he can't help but worry about what his grandkids might have inherited.
They plan to meet with a genetic counselor someday to find out what the risks might be and what they can do to reduce their chances of getting cancer.
Despite the immense sorrow that has been a constant since Derek died 32 years ago, English manages to move forward. He is a man of deep faith, and he is confident he will be with his family again one day in a better place.
"Certainly during these very difficult situations in life, I definitely experienced grief, sorrow, hurt, pain and depression," he said. "But I also have a real sense of (God's) peace and love for me and know in these situations he'll get me through them and over them. And that's happened in each situation that I've experienced. People have been so encouraging and supportive in so many ways that I would be slapping Jesus in the face if I said, 'Oh, woe is me.' "