Dear Prostate Cancer,
I would like to thank you, because without you I would not have had the greatest three weeks of my life.
You may not be aware, but we are trained to fear you, hate you and hope that you disappear. But I write this letter to let you know that I don't feel any of those things, and neither does my Dad.
If I'm honest, I never really worried about you. Never even knew much about you but in the spring of 2009 you entered my life. After a brief and unpleasant visit I thought we would never see each other again but in the summer of 2013 you came back.
And this time you really pissed me off.
You see, as kids we never think our parents will get sick, we never think that 'our' parents will get the C-word, we never think they won't be around. When you became a part of my Dad's life again you really rocked our family. My Mom, sister and brother were emotional, crying and worrying behind our Dad's back. For me, I did what all sports guys do off the field--buried any emotion I had.
But one day I got a phone call from my sister Maya and she just didn't sound right. And that day it hit me: I never wanted to say the sentence, 'I wish I'd spent more time with my Dad.' So I flew home, walked into the living room and asked him to go for a walk.
'Sure Yogi, where you thinking?' said my hero.
'Well...meet me in Portugal.' was my reply.
And away we went. For the next three weeks my Dad and I explored Portugal and Spain, walking along the famed pilgrimage known as 'The Camino De Santiago.' We discussed every decade of his life, ate bread and cheese at a record pace, and laughed as the sun rose and set each day.
Along the cobblestone and grass, up steep hills and alongside small villages, he told me about his first job at age 12 delivering newspapers, his blind date with a young gal that would become his wife for the next 45-plus years, and how he dealt with the death of a set of twins and, shortly thereafter, his father, as a young adult.
I would listen as he reminded me that 'You are the company you keep' and learned what 'Life is nothing without love' truly meant while discovering a side of a man I never knew... because I never asked.
Along the Camino De Santiago, I realized that emotions are a part of life and to hide them, to bury them, does not make them disappear; and that connection with family, as crazy as it sounds, is actually more important that a connection to a handheld device.
And if it wasn't for you I might still be the guy who failed to return phone calls, worked until midnight without coming up for air and took the concept of 'family' for granted.
So thank you.
But I need to warn you, there is a film coming out about the little walk my Dad and I took, and it has sparked a conversation around the world. A few thousand are talking, tweeting and texting about the simple concept of spending time with the ones we love. With a little luck a few million will be having this chat and you won't see men, young and old, be afraid of emotions anymore. We're opening our hearts, saying phrases like 'I love you' more often and sharing in simple joys each day.
Look, I know you're not going away and we both know you will likely get the last word in, but that's ok because you were the nudge that started a conversation that may very well turn into a global movement around the simple concept of spending time with the people we care about.
And while we are trained to be afraid of you, fear you and pray each night that you disappear, here's the heads up -- we don't anymore.
We actually want to thank you.
Athlete Ally Ambassador, Television personality, New York Times best-selling author, Emmy nominated filmmaker and former USC football coach Yogi Roth is in the process of completing a documentary film called LIFE IN A WALK, about his exploration with his father along the Camino De Santiago. To contribute to his Indiegogo campaign visit www.lifeinawalk.com.