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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
Dads for My Daughters
Aired June 19, 2011 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
EDEN AND TYBEE FEILER, BRUCE FEILER'S TWIN DAUGHTERS: (SINGING).
BRUCE FEILER, AUTHOR, "THE COUNCIL OF DADS": (SINGING).
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, HOST (voice-over): A devoted father hears a shocking diagnosis.
B. FEILER: In fact, if I could go through this whole thing and not be me, it was really - it was awful.
GUPTA: Facing his own mortality -
B. FEILER: I could just feel my body sort of slipping away.
GUPTA: ... he makes an extraordinary request.
B. FEILER (voice-over): Will you help be their dad?
GUPTA: In this hour, an intimate diary of Bruce Feiler's harrowing journey.
B. FEILER (on camera): And one for good.
GUPTA: It's going to inspire you to rethink how you live your life and you how would take care of the ones you might leave behind.
B. FEILER (voice-over): Tuesday, July 15th, 2008.
Dear friends and family. The mist lifts slowly off my in-law's back lawn on Cape Cod most mornings, revealing a day that is well underway and a layer of dew on the granite boulders.
I apologize for reaching out in this way, but the crush of events in recent days has forced us into a number of uncomfortable situations. I've learned that I have a seven-inch osteogenic sarcoma in my left femur. Put more directly, I have bone cancer.
GUPTA: It all began in May of 2008, a run-of-the-mill spring day, a routine physical.
B. FEILER (on camera): I was a healthy person.
GUPTA: Or so it seemed for Bruce Feiler -- happily married.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi, Daddy. Who do you have there?
GUPTA: Father to twin girls, best-selling author. Feiler's book and documentary, "Walking the Bible", was celebrated.
B. FEILER (voice-over): My journey through the Bible began in Mesopotamia.
GUPTA: It also gave him the nickname "The Walking Guy."
B. FEILER (on camera): Long before Rome, all roads led to Egypt.
GUPTA: He made a living by exploring the world and walking in other people's shoes. But now, he was about to be stopped in his tracks by a routine blood test.
B. FEILER: She says, your alkaline phosphatase number is high. And she explains that al-phos (ph) is this test that vaguely suggests there's something wrong with your liver or your bones. Another test, my liver is cleared. She says, on what seems like a whim, why don't you go get a full-body bone scan?
GUPTA: That test revealed a growth on his left femur, the thigh bone. But it was also the bone he broke while riding his treasured bike when he was just 5 years old. His doctors were not concerned.
B. FEILER: She's like, oh, you know, it looks like nothing. Don't worry. It's not like you have cancer or something, she says to me.
GUPTA (on camera): Boy.
B. FEILER: So I'm like - I repeated that a lot. (INAUDIBLE) "Don't worry," I say to my wife. "Don't worry," I say to my parents. "Don't worry," I say to myself. I don't have cancer.
GUPTA (voice-over): But sometimes, people have a hunch. His wife Linda told me she was worried and had been for a couple of months.
LINDA FEILER, WIFE: You know, as a wife, a spouse, you know, as a parent, when something's just off, and he just didn't look himself.
GUPTA (on camera): Do you think now, in retrospect, that it was this, already starting - starting back then?
L. FEILER: I do.
GUPTA (voice-over): Linda wasn't alone. Ben Edwards is a bone radiologist. He's also Bruce's oldest friend. When the bone scan revealed a problem in Bruce's left leg, Ben knew there was a problem.
BEN EDWARDS, BRUCE'S FRIEND: As a radiologist, which is what I do, it's kind of an old fracture looks like an old fracture.
GUPTA (on camera): What was your gut telling you at that point?
EDWARDS: There's a problem. There's a serious problem. GUPTA (voice-over): Days later, Bruce had a follow-up X-ray and MRI of his left leg. The results would confirm Linda and Ben's worst suspicions. On the streets of New York, the doctor's call came in.
B. FEILER: And then she says to me on the phone, your tumor is not consistent with a benign tumor, and called - called Linda.
GUPTA (on camera): You called her. She answers the phone. You say what?
B. FEILER: It's cancer.
L. FEILER: It's not news that anyone ever wants to hear, and I, you know, just -- I immediately went to the girls.
GUPTA: What did she say?
B. FEILER: I need you here for our girls. I can't - I can't raise them alone. I need you for the girls.
From the very beginning, it became the cancer versus - versus the girls.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We should put A's on her head (ph) right here.
GUPTA (voice-over): The twins. They were born on April 15th, 2005, Tax Day.
B. FEILER: That's Baby A.
GUPTA: The doctor joked, early Feiler and late Feiler.
Their parents named them Eden and Tybee. Eden for the Bible's perfect garden, which Bruce was looking for when he learned Linda was pregnant.
B. FEILER: Tybee, I love you.
GUPTA: And Tybee for the coastal island where Bruce and Linda were engaged. The girls were named to be adventurers like their father, and his plan was to be there every step of the way.
GUPTA (on camera): You girls like walking to school like this --
B. FEILER: Yes, exactly.
GUPTA: -- with daddy? You do this every morning?
B. FEILER: Yes.
L. FEILER: Every day, I'm actually astounded by their relationship.
GUPTA (voice-over): But again, it was that day in 2008 that jeopardized everything about the future he'd imagined -- bone cancer, a rare form of cancer, more specifically, osteosarcoma. It usually strikes people much younger than Bruce. Everyone was scared. EDWARDS: My first thought was he's going to die.
B. FEILER: There's never a moment that is not shadowed in some way by that phone call, that -- that cancer illness. The idea of dying is never that far away.
GUPTA: Just days after the diagnosis, Cape Cod. Bruce was consumed by a sense of loss. A man who'd made a living by walking knew he might never walk again, might not live to see the twins grow up. His thoughts focused on them.
B. FEILER: I'm a person who has tried in my life to dream undreamable dreams. Who's going to teach them how to dream? Who's the person I'm going to say, tell them, if they want to run a marathon, open a restaurant, write a book, cook the hardest souffle -- who's going to say to them, you can do it?
GUPTA: After a restless night in the early morning darkness, the house quiet, the answer came to him.
The extraordinary idea when we come back.
B. FEILER: OK? What song are we singing?
B. FEILER (voice-over): Dear friend. As you know, I recently learned that I have a seven- inch cancerous tumor in my left leg. That afternoon, Tybee and Eden were just turned three, came running to greet me, laughing, giggling and falling to the ground.
I crumbled. I kept imaging all the walks I might not take with them.
B. FEILER (on camera): Will you show me your twirls?
B. FEILER (voice-over): The ballet recitals I might not see.
Would they wonder who I was, I thought?
B. FEILER (on camera): Oh, Daddy painted their faces.
B. FEILER (voice-over): Would they yearn for my voice?
I believe Eden and Tybee will have plenty of opportunities in their lives. They'll have each other, but they may not have me. They may not have their dad.
Will you help be their dad?
GUPTA (voice-over): Sick, scared and worried, Bruce wrote that letter to six lifelong friends, men who knew his voice, who could be fathers for his daughters. He decided to call them the "Council of Dads." In late July, weeks after his cancer diagnosis, Bruce took the letter 200 miles north to Putney, Vermont, the home of childhood friend, Jeff Shumlin.
JEFF SHUMLIN, MEMBER, COUNCIL OF DADS: He said to me before coming up, I want to find some time to - to spend alone with you.
GUPTA: Nothing could have prepared him for what Bruce was about to ask.
SHUMLIN: Of course, without skipping a heartbeat, I said, "Bruce, absolutely, yes. You can count on me for anything." But it really was an overwhelming moment emotionally because I was connecting with all that Bruce was going through and, at the same time, feeling a bit of a burden for - for where this might go.
B. FEILER (on camera): And this turned out to be, Sanjay, a key to the idea of the council, which is to burden. He's a dad. All except for one of these men is a dad. They have busy lives. They got their own families. They got their own kids.
So, I wasn't, in effect, giving them my kids. I was saying, will you just be there and will you take this one side of me and will you convey them that idea?
GUPTA: Jeff would capture Bruce's adventurous side, part Vermont farmer, part world traveler. Jeff's as comfortable driving a tractor and sheering sheep as he is exploring the catacombs of Paris. His philosophy - get off the beaten track, and that's a style that immediately connected for an 18-year-old Bruce.
SHUMLIN: I can remember us hiking through the Swiss Alps, singing gospel songs at the top of our lungs.
Being a traveler involves diving truly into the culture that you're visiting. It means interacting with a country's people. It means trying its foods. It means listening to its music.
GUPTA: And that's the spirit Bruce wanted Jeff to teach Eden and Tybee.
SHUMLIN: I will get them out of their comfort zone and help them to see the world.
GUPTA: One of the next dad's call to action was close confidant Ben Sherwood.
BEN SHERWOOD, MEMBER, COUNCIL OF DADS: I've always said that I was a member of his army, a soldier in this army, fighting what he was fighting, and he had just given me my orders.
GUPTA: But Ben reacted very differently when Bruce first read him the letter.
SHERWOOD: I rejected the premise, and I resigned immediately from the Council of Dads. You're going to live a long and healthy life. There is no need for a Council of Dads, and you do no need me on your council.
GUPTA (on camera): You didn't want to validate this idea?
SHERWOOD: I did not want to validate the idea.
GUPTA: And what's his response?
SHERWOOD: Linda wants you to do this. We need you to do this. And it was game, set and match. I knew that I would be part of the Council of Dads.
GUPTA (voice-over): And that tells you everything about what Bruce hoped Ben would teach his girls, to challenge them to always ask questions.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. Ready? Here we go.
GUPTA: It would take four more men to complete the council. Childhood buddy Ben Edwards, to show the girls where their dad came from; college roommate Max Stier, to help them live life with passion; poet Joshua Ramo, to make them take time to reflect on life; business partner David Black, to teach them to never give up; and then Linda, who would be in charge of them all.
The Council, now formed, snapped into action.
L. FEILER: Being surrounded by these male voices, watching the girls relate to them, was really fascinating and enriching.
GUPTA (on camera): This sounds all so great and, you know, I think we all crave something like this in our lives, but a lot of it is predicated on Bruce not being around anymore.
L. FEILER: It's where it originated, but it's not where it went.
MAX STEIR, MEMBER, COUNCIL OF DADS: You're safe now. Don't worry.
GUPTA (voice-over): In the months to come -
DAVID BLACK, MEMBER, COUNCIL OF DADS: We do this together.
GUPTA: -- each man assumed his role and began making special connections to Eden and Tybee.
B. FEILER: We sat down and we were talking about the - about who these men are, and they were going through it. They were like, oh, yes, there's tadpole Ben. We went tadpole fishing with him. And there's tractor Jeff.
SHUMLIN: You got to hold on to the head.
B. FEILER: And he took us skiing. OK? And there's chocolate chip David because he - he likes to make chocolate chip cookies with us.
BLACK: That smells great.
B. FEILER: So, already, even in their minds, each of them has a personality that they already associate with them.
GUPTA (on camera): What do you guys call him? Tractor Jeff?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. That's - and, you know, we're going down a big kayak (INAUDIBLE) in puck (ph).
GUPTA (voice-over): The council was at work, and Bruce would need it. The year ahead would bring him to the brink of death.
B. FEILER: I could just feel my body sort of slipping away.
GUPTA: Battling the seemingly unsurvivable, when we come back.
B. FEILER (voice-over): Monday, December 1, 2008. Dear friends and family, it was my birthday. I was in the hospital.
As feared, the last few months had been challenging. I passed into the belly of the chemo colossus and experienced many of its most ferocious side effects.
At one point I wrote, Linda, it's so much worse than anyone will ever know.
GUPTA (voice-over): Hidden behind those smiles, a man struggling to survive.
B. FEILER (on camera): I had no hair. I had no eyebrows. It fried my insides. I have mouth sores. I have the nausea. I had - everything's - I never even told anybody about how bad I felt on the inside. Inside myself, I was still here, even though my body was collapsing around me.
GUPTA: It was just the beginning of the battle against Bruce's rare and aggressive cancer. Osteosarcoma strikes just 900 Americans a year. Two-thirds of them are younger than 40. Bruce was 43.
DR. JOHN HEALEY, MEMORIAL SLOAN KETTERING: It's very uncommon to have this diagnosis.
GUPTA: Dr. John Healey is from Memorial Sloan Kettering in New York. He would be the general leading the battle against Bruce's cancer.
GUPTA (on camera): This is a war and I intend to win it.
GUPTA: That's what you said to Bruce.
HEALEY: Yes. Absolutely. I'm a gladiator and - I hate cancer, and I know it's not going to show my patient any mercy and I'm not going to show it any mercy.
GUPTA (voice-over): Four months of chemotherapy, a poisonous cocktail of several different drugs, high hopes it would shrink the tumor and kill any cancer cells that might have spread throughout Bruce's body, crucial before a cutting-edge surgery to remove the diseased thigh bone.
DR. ROBERT MAKI, BRUCE FEILER'S ONCOLOGIST: We know that the bulk of people who die of osteogenic sarcoma die because the tumor travels somewhere else in the body. So we think it's important to give the chemotherapy first to try and kill off the tumor wherever it may be.
GUPTA (on camera): All this white -
MAKI: All - all of that is tumor. It ended up being 20 centimeters, so eight inches in the greatest dimension.
GUPTA (voice-over): Oncologist Dr. Robert Maki supervised the chemotherapy treatment. He knew Bruce's age worked against him.
GUPTA (on camera): Is there anything different about an osteogenic sarcoma that shows up in an adult versus in a child?
MAKI: They seem to do less well overall and we - we don't know exactly why that's the case. They just don't respond as well, for some reason.
GUPTA: So as an adult with the same tumor, Bruce's chances were a little bit diminished.
MAKI: That's right.
GUPTA (voice-over): Bruce took the chance and suffered the consequences - pneumonia, ear infections, dozens of pounds lost, three hospitalizations, the last took him to the brink.
B. FEILER: I remember at noon, I felt fine, and by 6:00 that night, I felt awful. And you could just - I could just feel my body sort of slipping away.
GUPTA: In the darkest moments, while Bruce suffered physically, his family struggled emotionally.
B. FEILER: I get a call from my mother-in-law on Sunday night and she said I think the girls are really feeling your absence. It felt to me like a primal scream, like, the corest of the core of who I am, this sense of the complete horror of the fact. I can - not only is it ravaging me, but worse, the biggest fear all along, it's now ravaging them.
GUPTA (on camera): What do you do right after your mother-in-law tells you what's happening is hurting your - your daughters now?
B. FEILER: You - you climb. It's what you do.
GUPTA (voice-over): His body responded. And, two days later, Bruce was strong enough to go home - home to his girls.
B. FEILER: I put them to bed. They come 4:00 in the morning. This house goes completely crazy. One of them starts crying. One of them is jumping on the bed. At 4:30 in the morning, this doesn't normally happen. Eden is, you know, not going to be consoled.
I'm like, you know what? I'm going to my office. If you want to see me, you come in. And to my surprise, she walks in.
So I'm on the floor, right, because I'm crawling around this house, because I can't walk. And she sits in my lap and she - she says, is this your better leg or your boo-boo leg? Because they know Daddy's got a boo-boo leg and a better leg.
She sits on my better leg. I said this is my better leg. And she says, well, I want you to have two better legs, Daddy. And I said, I'm going to have two better legs.
SHUMLIN: It was a primary concern that this journey not be a nightmare for - for Tybee and Eden.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yuck.
SHUMLIN: What do you mean yuck?
GUPTA: Jeff Shumlin remembers how tough a time that was for everyone as Bruce was fighting for his life -
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It tastes so good.
BLACK: It does, doesn't it?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Let's do it again.
GUPTA: The Council of Dads rallied around the family, some with daily phone calls, others, weekly visits.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And, Jeff -
SHUMLIN: Welcome to our home.
My family made an effort to spend time with Eden and Tybee. We made sure, though, that when saw them we have fun. We made sure that there was a bright spot in Eden and Tybee's life.
GUPTA: And there was something else. Jeff sent the Feilers post cards, one postcard a day, every single day, for a year.
GUPTA (on camera): That's a lot of postcards. I mean, to see them all like this, what's that like?
SHUMLIN: I have to say it's - it's impressive to walk in here and see these postcards on the desk. I wanted Bruce to know that - that I was with him. GUPTA (voice-over): Bruce needed those postcards. The hardest part was about to come.
B. FEILER: There are very few days in your life that you know are going to be momentous - tomorrow is one of them for me.
Tuesday, December 23rd -
GUPTA: That day that would change Bruce's life forever when we come back.
FEILER: "Sunday, February 1st, 2009. Dear friends and family. There are very few days in one's life that you know in advance are going to be momentous. December 23rd was one of those days for me."
GUPTA (voice-over): December 23rd, 7:00 AM, New York City. The streets are quiet and they are cold. Bruce entered through these doors for a risky operation, to cut out the cancer and repair his leg. Surgeon John Healey (ph) led the team.
(on camera): When you looked at his films and after you examined him, did you have a plan formulated?
HEALEY: Typically, we would just remove the hip and replace that, along with the femur.
GUPTA (voice-over): But Healey had bigger ideas.
HEALEY: Well, I think we can do better than that. I think I can save your hip joints.
GUPTA: Years, ago, treating an osteosarcoma like Bruce's often meant amputation to remove any possible cancerous tissue. In fact, it cost Ted Kennedy, Jr., his leg when he was 12 years old. But now Healey felt he could do both, remove any cancer, and with new technology, save Bruce's leg, his hip, his ability to walk.
HEALEY: That makes a huge difference. And as I came to learn, walking and reporting was his life blood.
GUPTA: Surgery could preserve the walking guy's very identity if Healey could rebuild Bruce's left femur. It was not the first time Bruce had had trouble with that leg. He was 5, on a new bike and looking for adventure in his Savannah neighborhood.
FEILER: I found this basically sort of secret hideaway about three blocks over, and I thought, Oh, we have to explore it. So I ride my bike here, I turn around out here, and a car comes this way, and bam! And I wake up the next morning in a body cast.
GUPTA: His left femur was shattered, and that same leg would develop a life-threatening tumor 38 years later. (on camera): Is it possible that he had a weak bone because of something already in the leg and that that's why his leg broke?
HEALEY: It is possible that there might have been an underlying weakness in the bone contributing to the fracture, and then it, too, may have contributed to the development of the cancer.
FEILER: To me, it's the beginning of the storm.
GUPTA: Ben Edwards (ph) -- he was there at the beginning.
EDWARDS: I think when you're 5, you don't realize the magnitude that it could have killed him. You know, to me (INAUDIBLE) What are we going to do to play now? How are we going to play football? How are we going to go run around?
GUPTA: But the bone did heal and they did play. Their favorite game?
BRUCE FEILER: So when is tadpole season?
BRUCE FEILER: You are -- exactly!
EDWARDS: They've survived years of fishing by the Feiler and Edwards clan.
GUPTA: Two boys in the neighborhood drainage ditch, trying to catch tadpoles they could grow into frogs.
BRUCE FEILER: There's a big one over there.
EDWARDS: Yes, I see it. Oh, yes!
GUPTA: And it's that childhood innocence and pure joy that Bruce wanted Ben to teach his girls.
FEILER: He is my tadpole. He is that friend who was there at the beginning, who came back at a moment of possible ending to remind me where we came from.
GUPTA: An important voice for the girls and the council, a voice that when added to the five others, created a support system for the girls, and surprisingly, for Bruce.
BRUCE FEILER: We did it for the girls, but it really has changed us because it's created this new community in our lives.
GUPTA: And it would take an entire community to make Bruce whole again -- his family, the council and the doctors.
It was the night before the critical operation on Bruce's diseased leg.
FEILER: At 7:00 AM, I'm going into the hospital.
GUPTA: He recorded a few final words for Tybee and Eden.
FEILER: Girlies, there are magical places I want to show you, rivers and oceans I want to cross with you, bike rides I want to make with you, dances I want to take with you, boyfriends I want to embarrass you in front of and aisles I want to walk down with you. I hope you don't see these images until you're old with kids of your own, but whenever you see them, you will know, please, that I did it for you.
GUPTA: The next morning was the surgery.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What's today?
FEILER: Tuesday, December 23rd.
GUPTA: Dr. John Healey prepared for battle.
(on camera): Do you sort of see yourself like that, like a warrior out on a battlefield?
HEALEY: They're long, arduous procedures. It's a physical sport, if you will, and so you need to feel yourself as a warrior.
GUPTA (voice-over): Healey's plans called for a rare surgery, one even he, a world-renowned orthopedic surgeon, had only ever done twice -- remove the diseased femur, replace it with a titanium prosthesis and rebuild Bruce's leg.
For Linda, it was yet another terrifying fight in their long campaign.
LINDA FEILER: There were so many times when we thought Bruce will not come out of this. It was that scary.
GUPTA: In the operating room, it was part medicine, part miracle and part magic.
HEALEY: A little bit of a vaudeville act, of going to a beautifully set dining room table with all of your china and crystal and silverware there, and you're trying to take out the tablecloth and leave the other things intact.
GUPTA: The hours passed, Bruce's leg, even his life, hanging in the balance.
LINDA FEILER: We didn't know how he was going to survive 15 hours of surgery. I sat there waiting for 15 hours as the surgery went on.
GUPTA: The surgery would change Bruce's life, and so would the news that Dr. Healey brought to his bedside soon after.
BRUCE FEILER: The pivotal moment in the entire 12 months of this lost year, as I call it, occurred the day before I came home.
GUPTA: That news when we come back.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BRUCE FEILER: "Tuesday, April 14th, 2009. Dear friends and family. The pear tree across the street has just erupted into full blossom, our own private promise that spring is here to enliven us again. After 9-and-a-half months, 29 nights in the hospital, 100 visits to the doctor, my chemotherapy has come to an end."
Thank you very much.
LINDA FEILER: Kiss her, Bruce. Kiss her.
GUPTA: Done. It once seemed unthinkable but now seemed possible.
BRUCE FEILER: The pivotal moment in the entire 12 months occurred the day before I came home.
GUPTA: It was 11 days after Bruce's marathon operation. Doctors had successfully removed the bone and implanted the prosthesis. And now the news. Was there any cancer left in his body?
BRUCE FEILER: You've got clean margins, meaning what he had taken out, there was no cancer in the bones that were left behind. And more important, you had 100 percent necrosis rate. The chemo had slaughtered the tumor.
So I'm now vertical in this stretcher...
GUPTA: Bruce was ready to go home. For four months, he was confined to this bed, much of that time spent with the girls.
BRUCE FEILER: And the girls came running up from the basement and kind of jumped into this bed, and I just -- you know, it was just one of those moments. We had looked it in phases. Phase one was the chemo. Phase two was the surgery. And when I'm staying here with the kids piling on top of me, that was kind of end of phase two of our war.
GUPTA: Phase three now began with learning to walk again. Dr. John Healey knew it would be a challenge.
HEALEY: It's a big challenge to get people to walk again, and particularly adults. It's more of a struggle. They're set in their ways and it's hard to train their neurologic system.
GUPTA: For more than a year, Bruce fought through physical therapy...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Push through your leg, OK? Nice.
GUPTA: ... as the prosthesis slowly became part of his body.
HEALEY: Bone is forming from the fibula up under this area.
GUPTA: Nine months on crutches, seven months with a cane, the hard work finally paid off. BRUCE FEILER: I'm on crutches. I couldn't hold their hands. Then I was on one crutch. Then I was on a cane so I could hold one or the other. Now to be able to hold their hands, that's what this is about, actually. This is about the connection. This is about the freedom to walk around. And here they are. They're going to run around, and I'm trying to hold on.
GUPTA: A major milestone for the walking guy. The next one would be for the girls.
BRUCE FEILER: This is our first bike ride of the season, girls!
LINDA FEILER: First (INAUDIBLE) for Daddy in two years!
BRUCE FEILER: Yes. Exactly.
LINDA FEILER: Yes!
BRUCE FEILER: Here comes Daddy!
GUPTA: A moment exhilarating, awkward, even dangerous for his fragile leg. A fall could be disastrous.
BRUCE FEILER: Oh! There we go. Look!
LINDA FEILER: Go Daddy!
BRUCE FEILER: I'm on a bike. Give me five, Eden. Give me five. Give me five. I remembered how to do it. I have a good teacher. Thank you!
GUPTA: On the shores of Cape Cod, his first ride in years...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Daddy, go!
LINDA FEILER: Go ahead.
BRUCE FEILER: Go, Daddy, go!
SHERWOOD: I have marveled at the ways Bruce has grown from this trauma. And among the ways, I think that he has a much more heightened sense of the preciousness of life and also the preciousness of his bond with these two beautiful girls.
GUPTA: Council member Ben Sherwood (ph) knew how tough this would have been for the girls. He went through the pain of losing his own father.
SHERWOOD: I was 29 when my dad died. And it was very sudden. And I was a man, and I wish that there had been more time. And the thing that I miss the most about my dad is his voice. And the entire idea of the council of dads, as Bruce articulated it, was, Who will be my voice for Tybee and Eden? What a brilliant idea to create a group of people, friends, to bring dimensions of the voice to daughters if you're not there. GUPTA: Now Bruce used his voice, his words, to share this life- changing idea. A best-selling author, he began work on a new book, calling it "The Council of Dads."
BRUCE FEILER: And it normally takes me three years to write a book. "The Council of Dads" took me three months. It fell off my fingers.
GUPTA: It was a lesson Bruce would share in his book and with these people back in Savannah, the place where he first injured his leg 40 years ago. He has come full circle, back now as a survivor, not a victim.
BRUCE FEILER: I'm just curious. As long as I'm here, I -- anybody see me in the -- I was in a body cast for two months. Who saw me in the -- look at this, you know? Saw me in that body cast...
GUPTA: The man who thought he might never walk again has made great strides. Yet lurking in the shadows, the all too real fear that his cancer could come back.
BRUCE FEILER: It's actually lung cancer that's the biggest threat to my life right now because in a fairly high percentage of cases, bone cancer metastasizes to lungs. So essentially, every three months, they've got to go check my lungs.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Here's one example of that right there.
GUPTA: The results of the first-year scan...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Some of these tumors will occur pretty late.
GUPTA: ... when we come back.
BRUCE FEILER: "Monday, July 13th, 2009. Dear friends and family. Twelve months have passed since I first learned I had an osteosarcoma in my left femur. During my recent quarterly checkups, I received much good news. There are no signs of cancer in my bones or lungs. My leg is healing nicely. As Dr. Healey said, you are on your way to recovery truly. He then added, But we both know."
GUPTA: March 2010, a spring day and an ominous snowstorm. This day is going to be different.
BRUCE FEILER: In a fairly high percentage of cases, bone cancer metastasizes to lungs. So essentially, every three months, they've got to go check my lungs.
GUPTA: The anxiety these monthly scans produce are part of living with cancer, and this is a more important scan than most. It's one year after Bruce finished treatment. Anxious, unsure, hopeful, Bruce does all he can to keep everything normal. Breakfast...
BRUCE FEILER: Double high-five. Excellent!
GUPTA: ... a walk to school.
BRUCE FEILER: Always remember! Always remember what?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Your daddy loves you!
BRUCE FEILER: Your daddy loves you. Give me a kiss, OK? It's a special day for Daddy. Give me a big kiss.
GUPTA: And then another trip to Manhattan, another appointment, this time for the first-year CAT scan of his lungs.
BRUCE FEILER: I've known this date for five months, and it's almost like, every week it gets closer, it gets a little bit harder to breathe.
GUPTA: As we ride with him, he's reminded how far he's come, how long the odds, and how much is at stake.
BRUCE FEILER: When I was told the frightening numbers about how high the recurrence is, what I said was, This is not about me. I don't care. I just -- this is about my girls. And I just didn't know what was going to happen to them.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Bruce Feiler?
BRUCE FEILER: Yes.
GUPTA: The scan took just moments to complete.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The scan will take 5.2 seconds.
GUPTA: The results just a few more to arrive.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Breathe in. Hold your breath.
GUPTA: Then on a New York street corner, Bruce called Linda, just as he had the day he first heard he had cancer. On this day, the news was very different.
BRUCE FEILER: Hey, wifey. How are you? There's nothing there.
LINDA FEILER: It was a good day. It was a good call.
GUPTA: Still, it is hard not to worry.
(on camera): What is it you think of when you think of the future?
LINDA FEILER: Now I just -- I can just only think of the present. I don't want to jinx it. At any moment, you can get a scan and a call that's not so good that sends you right back. And it's been one year, it hasn't been five years. And if that five-year call, you're cancer- free, then I think, you know, I'll start planning their wedding!
LINDA FEILER: Now you know who's in charge of this family! GUPTA: So for now, they live in the moment. April 17th, 2010.
BRUCE FEILER: Girlies, it's your birthday walk across the bridge!
GUPTA: Almost two years since the initial diagnosis, two years since that first trip over the Brooklyn Bridge to New York City to meet the doctors. This day is very different.
BRUCE FEILER: What's different about Daddy this year?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He doesn't have crutches.
BRUCE FEILER: Crutches! I'm walking without crutches!
LINDA FEILER: Yay, Daddy. Yay!
GUPTA: A celebration of the future...
LINDA FEILER: Here's our tea and or crumpets.
GUPTA: ... with a tea party.
BRUCE FEILER: Oh! That's very nice.
GUPTA: A couple of hours later, back at the house, the birthday celebration continues with special guests.
BRUCE FEILER: OK. You blow out one. Come on! Blow it out!
GUPTA: The entire council of dads has convened from around the globe.
(on camera): Josh (ph), when you were in China last week, I mean, were you thinking about making sure you were here?
RAYMO (ph): I was. I knew it was going to be a highlight of my month. Every time you have a chance to spend a birthday with these girls, it kind of changes your perspective on the world. And to do it this year, with Bruce healthy and walking around, I mean, as opposed to last year and just thinking one year, two years, five years from now, it's a great celebration.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The idea that he's able to walk and walk across the bridge today is pretty extraordinary.
BRUCE FEILER: Today's a day of smiles and happiness, but you know, a lot of why we're here did come from a dark place originally.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think you have to think about what could have been and the reasons for us being here. I think it has focused our own attention on how wonderful it is that we have friendships, that we have families, that we can be together and that we can support each other.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I want (INAUDIBLE) chocolate chip cookies!
GUPTA: There was a moment Linda leaned over and whispered something in your ear. You could tell it was a little bit of an emotional moment. Do you remember that?
BRUCE FEILER: All those men were sitting there, and Linda leaned to me and she said, You're here and they're here. This thing you created, it's real. And our girls now have these men in their lives, and more importantly, we have these men in our lives.
GUPTA (voice-over): And though the cancer could return, Bruce is not afraid.
(on camera): Do you still think about dying? Do you still worry that this cancer is going to come back?
BRUCE FEILER: I still every day think about it at least once. But if I could convey one message to you is, it doesn't feel like a weight on my shoulders. It feels like an engine on my back. It feels like something that propels me forward into the day, into the moment.
"Dear Tybee and Eden. I used to say to you, May your first word be adventure and your last word love. We never know when our last word may come. So I beg of you, be awash (ph) in love every day, with family, with friends, with your council of dads. And whatever adventures you take, I'll be whispering in your ear. I'll be gently nudging you on your own. Take trips, girls. Take chances. Take off. And every now and then, take a walk for me."