06/04/2012 02:42 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

The Family That Survives Cancer Together, Thrives Together

I'm a dad. One. Two. Three times.

That means our family is routinely celebrating milestones. A revolving door of them. They started with the sweet, innocent ones. First smile. First coo. Wobbly steps. Teeth coming in. Teeth coming out. First birthday. Big boy bed. Big girl bed. Princess bed. Training pants. No training pants. Training bra. First day of school. First home run. Vaccines. "You tied your own shoes!" Learning to read. Learning to write.

Time flies. Milestones blend into the whirlwind of life.

My children's milestones, lately, take my breath away.

For my oldest son, they've included graduating from college, navigating the working world and (thankfully) starting an-honest-to-goodness "grown-up" job.

For child number two -- my girl -- the milestones have all been centered on her nursing training. First patient. Administering her first shot. And countless other "firsts" that turn my squeamish stomach inside out.

And for the baby, my other son, his milestones include a driver's license, his first razor and the most coveted milestone of all: being taller than Dad.

Time flies.

For our family, somewhere in between those sweet, precious milestones of youth and the grown-up milestones we celebrate today, came one other milestone for all three of my children.

They became the children of a dad with cancer.

It was a milestone that arrived a few years ago. And one that continues to touch and shape their lives daily. It's a milestone that has brought fear, confusion and a bit of anger to their world. But it is also a milestone that serves as a beacon in their life to shine light on the path as they each discover their own character, values and passions.

"It's made me a person who's not afraid to help others," one of my sons recently shared with me. "I'm always the first person to show up when someone -- anyone -- is in need. I know I can make a difference."

I think I like what my daughter said the best: "It's just made us strong. Amazingly strong."

And it's just made me a dad who is grateful. Amazingly grateful. For the blessings of my three children.

But especially for the daily milestones they bring to my days.


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