My Literal Leg Up to a Second Chance
We don’t always get a second chance. There was the time I spent $49.95 on a pay-per-view fight that lasted two rounds and ended in a disqualification. I can’t unmake that bad decision any more than I can go back and choose a major other than philosophy. (When was the last time you saw a “Philosopher Wanted” ad?)
However, many of us who have faced real crises, real challenges and real obstacles have known the good fortune of a second chance. I have been more fortunate than most in that regard. I have always enjoyed the love and support of a strong network of family and friends who have been there to help me through bad times. I have also been blessed by support from utter strangers and systems that have helped me through my life’s biggest crisis.
The Big “C”
The day before Thanksgiving, 2011, I lost my right leg to a rare, aggressive bone cancer. I was 45, a husband and father, and within a month I went from having knee pain to recovering from the amputation of 20 pounds of flesh and bone. Recovering from the surgery was difficult, as I’m sure one can imagine. But limb loss was not even half the battle. The ensuing six months of chemotherapy involved three types of intravenous drugs injected over the course of several days and was worse by far than the amputation itself. It saved my life, but it almost killed me.
When it was over I had nerve damage in my remaining foot, both hands and both ears. I lost a wide bandwidth of hearing, I could no longer write legibly and I struggled to stay awake through the day while learning to walk on a mechanical leg. And with all that, I needed a job.
Bald Grant Writer for Hire
I happen to write grants and contracts for a living, a career choice I don’t recommend to the ambitious or easily bored. I’ve been working at my craft for more than a quarter-century but no matter how qualified one may be, one doesn’t find a whole lot of prospective employers looking to hire middle-aged, one-legged, half-dead cancer survivors. So it was with some trepidation that I answered an advertisement and showed up for an interview still bald, with no eyebrows, limping noisily and too skinny to fill out my best suit. The interview was with Second Chance and I quickly discovered that for them, it’s more than just a name. It’s a living mission.
By taking a chance on me, Second Chance opened a door to my future beyond limb loss, beyond cancer and disability. The staff became my friends and benefactors and although I have moved on, launching my own business, I will always owe them for the leg up (pun clumsily intended) they gave me.
And as much as I owe the organization, I also owe the clients who arrived at Second Chance with shattered hopes and seemingly no prospects. I watched men and women recover lost dreams and find new opportunities for self-worth and stability. I saw families reunited, careers launched, confidence gained. I saw youth with histories of trauma, violence, drugs and despair, blossom into new leaders of a generation full of promise, with visions as wide as the world they look out upon with great expectations. I saw all that strength and courage and it fueled my own.
Some days my job boils down to writing elaborate term papers about poverty — over and mind-numbingly over again. But other days I know the satisfaction of having contributed to organizations that make a difference in the lives of individuals and families with far greater difficulties than I will ever know. Organizations like Second Chance.
Mine is just one story. Second Chance boasts thousands of stories more compelling by far. Each day, the talented staff at Second Chance touches the lives of hundreds of real men, women and youth whose circumstances are not of their choosing and whose hopes for a better tomorrow hinge on the willingness of strangers to hold open a door to opportunity.
I am proud to support Second Chance and to attest to their fantastic work. I hope you will join me.
Tony Phillips, Founder & Executive Director
Kouros Phillips Development