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When Surviving Is Just the Beginning

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It had just been three months. Just three months ago we had to say goodbye to my sister. She has lost her second battle with cancer, and now three months later we heard the news we never wanted to hear again.

I remember standing on the sidewalk at school and getting the phone call from my mom that my dad had cancer. It had only been three months and the wounds were still so fresh, and here we were facing the same battle all over again. I remember my younger, baby sister walking up to me after I had gotten the news. I was just standing there stunned. Embracing each other as we cried on the sidewalk, we did not know what to do or where to turn.

I am not sure there has been a darker day in my life, but weeks later we were in the hospital while my dad had surgery. We all held our breath hoping this battle would be different, that this battle would not end the way my sister’s had, that somehow things would be different. When the phone rang in the waiting room and the doctor said the surgery went well and he got all the cancer. Tears of joy flooded our faces, and we all breathed the breath we had been holding for the last few hours.

Yet, that joy was just the beginning. As my dad completed chemo and recovered, each time he went to the doctor or get another test run, we would hold our breath and pray that the cancer had not returned. I sit here 20 years later, and I still have my dad with me.

This is what we do each and every time, and every time we are thankful that it has not returned. As I watch my dad fighting this battle, the strength, the courage and the grace he showed in the face of a struggle and possible death, stayed with me, encouraged me and reminded me that no matter what happens, I can face it. Surviving the battle, though, is just the beginning.

While we certainly remember and mourn those who have been freed from the battle a different way, it is quite another to live life after an experience like this. In many ways, it is almost a new birth. It changed us as a family and made us appreciate so many things that we had never before. In many ways, it was the beginning of a new journey for our family, one in which we saw the world completely different. It was a long battle, and it was a hard battle, and it’s one we are reminded of every time he goes for his next check-up. But we have also been reminded of how blessed we are for the second chance to appreciate the life that was given.

For all the families and individuals out there who have fought this battle and survived, I salute you. May this be the start of a new day in your life, one that impacts many more through your story. Whether we have had an experience like this or watched others, we have a choice of how we will deal with it. Will I stop living or will this be the catalyst that propels me into the second part of a new journey? That is the choice we each have, and it is one I am very thankful I have with my father.

May you be blessed and strengthened as you fight the battle before you, may it cause you to grow deeper as a family, may it enable you to appreciate the things you missed before, and may you truly not just survive, but thrive as you go forward.

Charles Mickles, author, speaker, consultant. He has written, Mine’s Parkinson’s, What’s Yours? and What Christmas Really Is All About? You can follow his story at

Getty image by greenleaf123

Originally published: June 22, 2021
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