It was an ordinary day just before Halloween. I had arrived home after picking up my 3-year-old daughter from school when I heard my phone ringing.
I missed the first call from my father-in-law. He called right back.
I knew what he was calling about. I took the phone to my wife, Sara, and let her take the call. About 10 seconds into the conversation, she crumbled into a heap on the floor.
The test results were back. My father-in-law had been diagnosed with prostate cancer.
We had feared this was going to come. He had shown some worrisome symptoms for a while, but nothing really prepares you for that moment. We cried, and I supported my wife the best I could.
We talked about how we could help, being that we live in Atlanta and my in-laws live just outside Chicago. Would we move? Would we take time off from work? Would we pay for a nurse to help him recover? What will his treatment be? How will it affect him? Will it make him better?
A few hours after being introduced to my father-in-law almost six years ago, I joined his family in riding in Chicago Critical Mass. Several thousand fellow cyclists had taken to rush hour in downtown Chicago to demonstrate that "we are traffic, too."
The cops shut the event down after a while. There I was, looking at the man who I knew would be my father-in-law, lifting his bicycle above his head, shouting "F*** the police!"
I loved him instantly.
The one thing I do know about his diagnosis: We will approach it with the same bluntness, energy and "stick-it-to-the-man" mentality that he has taken to every other challenge he's had.
He is due to have surgery soon, and the prognosis looks hopeful. I know this attitude will stand him in good stead for a full recovery.
When we got that fateful phone call, I realized that we were only a couple of days away from Movember, the month when "Mo-Bros" everywhere join forces to grow ridiculous-looking mustaches in the name of raising awareness and funds for men's health issues, specifically prostate and testicular cancer initiatives.
It was a concept that seemed to fit perfectly. So I rummaged around the bathroom drawer for my long-lost razor.
The last time I was completely bereft of facial hair was the night my daughter was born nearly four years ago. We were living in Amsterdam at the time, and after 24 hours or so at the hospital, we were the proud parents of a 6-pound baby girl.
As my wife and our new bundle of joy slept, I rushed home to collect clothes for Sara and other sundries that had been forgotten in the rush to the hospital. I thought I would do the decent thing and clean myself up a bit before returning to the hospital in the morning.
A shower and a shave, I thought. But I was so tired at that point that I didn't realize I had left the guard off my electric razor. Beard ... gone. I didn't recognize the person underneath.
I've had facial hair ever since, and it really felt strange to shave it off again for Movember. It made me think about that night at the hospital and reminded me of the new sense of responsibility I felt to my daughter and wife.
This time, that sense of responsibility comes from a different place.
This time I feel an obligation to stand with my father-in-law, to support and honor him in the best and only way I know how.
When people stop me at work and ask me why I shaved my beard off, I have a great excuse to talk about him and the type of man he is. It never fails to give me a spring in my step and a great sense of confidence, purpose and camaraderie.
Ultimately, I think that's what Movember is all about.