On August 3, 1991, I was a homeless alcoholic in New York City. Penniless, friendless, and hopeless, I woke that morning with the intention of ending my life. But then my life was saved by a calm, clear voice in my mind that said, “My son you have another chance.” 

As the years have passed, I’ve realized how crazy this sounds to people. Even my own daughters have attempted to rationalize it away. I was delusional. No one hears the voice of God. It was my internal survival instinct kicking in with one last gasp. 

Except, it really happened. Exactly as I’ve described. And I wasn’t then, nor am I now, religious. Or delusional.

In the thirty years since that defining moment, I’ve spent a lot of time wondering why. Why was I, a homeless drunk with nothing but burned bridges around him, plucked from the darkness and thrust into the light? 

There has been no “voice” since that summer day in 1991. And so I’ve never really discovered my “purpose” for being saved. 

That is, until December 10, 2021 when I was diagnosed with cancer via a phone call with my doctor.

As the doctor broke the news, my heartbeat didn’t change. I was completely at peace—as I have been since learning I needed a prostate biopsy in November. 

Then, after I hung up with him, and before I called my wife, it occurred to me why I was saved thirty years ago—to simply keep going by keeping my heart and mind focussed on the one who saved me. 

In the weeks following my epiphany in 1991, I felt immortal. I was living in the basement of a man’s house I didn’t know. He lent me a cot and a blanket. And down there in his basement, pitched between the HVAC system and a punching bag, I was alive with the spirit of God. Nothing could touch me. Nothing could harm me. I was walking on a cloud. When I think back to those days now, I do so with wonder and amazement. Here I was a broken man stripped of all earthly possessions—and somehow I knew in my heart that I was now was encased in armor. 

It was the most amazing feeling I’ve ever experienced in life. Above meeting my wife. Above the birth of our daughters. It was pure and true and utterly remarkable. 

I had nothing, and yet—I had no fear. I had God. 

I was 27 years old and until then had never really stood on my own. But then, while down there in that basement, I realized that I was no longer alone. Once my heart was cracked open, and light came flooding in, I was able to see God everywhere. In people. In nature. In seemingly insignificant things and moments that I’d taken for granted all my life until that point.

But faith without works is folly, so I had to get my life together and do what I could to take my place in society as a functioning contributor. I had to get a job. I had to get my license back. I had to go to doctors and dentists for a long overdue checkups. I had to get an apartment. I had to go to night school to start the long road to a college degree. 

As I made my way into the “real world,” that brilliant pink cloud faded. My touchstone to the days of feeling invincible grew more distant as I met the world on its terms—wrought with all of its perils and pitfalls, triumphs and beauty. 

And at some point as I tried soaring with the eagles, I stopped thinking about why I was saved that day in 1991. My mind was too focused on the minutia of living in the world. Yes, I still hit my knees every day, and I still attempted to connect with God, but my priorities had shifted. 

The moment I was diagnosed with cancer, a familiar feeling returned to me. As the doctor spoke, I felt the presence of God immediately and immensely. He was on that call with me.

When I told the doctor that there is no family history of prostate cancer, he explained how the cancer has been buried in my DNA for thousands of years and decided to rear its ugly head with me. 

It was so random that it wasn’t. 

I am supposed to face this down. Because I can. Because I am built for this. I’ve had 30 years of training on trusting God—regardless of potential outcomes. 

I felt the armor return and realized that cancer might kill me, but it can’t touch me. 

True faith is an unbreakable foundation.

According to science, I have have one of the most survivable forms of cancer. Which is nice because I would really love to keep going for a while. But even if I didn’t, even if I were hit by a car and died tomorrow, I have lived a remarkable life and the past thirty years, living with no regrets and no fear, have been a gift from God. Literally. I realize how blessed I am. How lucky I am. For the last three decades, not a day goes by when I don’t think about death in some capacity–because I was so close to it. But when my doctor told me I had cancer, it wasn’t death I was thinking about –

It was how God intends to use me again to continue showing others His grace. 

Because He knows I’m up for it. 

Cancer might kill me, but it can't touch me.
My family.


Love Till The End
The Urgency of an Artist

Jim Mitchem

Writer. Father to daughters. Husband. Ad man. Raised by wolves. @jmitchem on twitter. First novel, Minor King, out now.