South Bend firefighter and his family fight cancer with faith

Published: Jul. 23, 2018 at 2:02 PM EDT
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Cancer is a terrifying word, especially when doctors give you 14 months to live.

But don't tell that to South Bend firefighter Josh Comeau, whose journey we've been following since day one.

Josh has been battling glioblastoma for four years, a much longer survival rate than most.

Now on medical leave after fighting fires for 11 years, he and his family are fighting cancer together, through faith.

Josh was diagnosed on June 4, 2014. "One day I was driving the fire truck and my peripheral vision shut down and my body was going off line."

Josh sideswiped a parked truck. Leading up to the accident, Josh had terrible headaches. Believe it or not, he says getting the diagnosis of glioblastoma was actually a relief. "Prior to that, I thought I was going crazy. They gave me 14 months."

During nearly four years in remission, this father of six returned to work at South Bend Fire in November of 2015 and was feeling good.

But then cancer came calling again, and on May 31, Josh had his second brain surgery.

"I was working out in the fire station and it was between scans, and they were telling me something was there on the MRI that shouldn't be, and be patient," Josh explains.

But this time, Josh and Rosary made a decision: no more chemo.

"At this point in the game, quality of life looks like being around my family, my friends, not being in a hospital surrounded by strangers. And making the most with my family," Josh says.

Josh and Rosary say that, in spite of the diagnosis, they feel blessed. "The other day when I was in my quiet time in my prayer, I was having my little pity party for myself and saying I don't have enough time, and I just heard a little voice saying, 'You have as much time as you need.'"

With six kids and a wife, I suggested it was okay for him to have a pity party. He responded, "My job is simple: just stay focused and live."

And he's not alone in his fight. He has faith, family and friends from the firehouse. "I'm not alone. They call the firefighters and the brotherhood your second home. It's not exaggeration."

As we were talking, Josh's former captain, Fred Juronek, arrived.

"Oh, that's my old captain. He's an old retired firefighter," Josh explains.

After a big bear hug, Fred says, "Your house was easy to find, just follow the news station. Hi, I'm Fred."

Rosary says Josh's wicked humor also helps. "The joke is that brain surgery can't fix that." Josh adds, "They tried, they keep trying to fix me but they can't."

That led the family to try holistic measures. "The holistic doctors are very hopeful and they are telling us that this works and this is survivable, and it's such a far cry from the doctors who are saying it's just a matter of time," Rosary says.

I asked, "How are your kids handling this?"

"They're doing well. We don't come out and say everything to them; they don't need to live in fear," Rosary says. "Because being afraid is not going to do us any good."

The man who ran a 5K marathon, in full fire gear, on the one-year anniversary of his first surgery says he ran for hope, which he still has. "Absolutely, it doesn't go out. It never does. The most important thing for me right now is to register memories with my family, let my kids know who I am."

And while fighting fires was fierce, he still doesn't fear having brain cancer. "I realize that my timeline and anyone's timeline, that's God's control."

In September, Josh and Rosary are making a Pilgrimage to Medjugorje with their children, where the Blessed Mother is believed to have appeared to six children.

If you'd like to help the family make that journey, they have a GoFundMe page set up at