Imagine you’re an active, healthy guy who makes a living walking around the world and writing about it. You and your wife have identical twin 3-year-old girls. Then you get a rare aggressive bone cancer. You might not live. So you concoct a crazy idea and ask six friends to be everything for your daughters that you won’t be around to be. That’s the concept behind Bruce Feiler’s best-selling 2010 memoir, The Council of Dads.

Spoiler alert: Bruce lives. His book, just reissued, describes his extraordinary struggle back to health and hiking. But Scott Perry, the character based on Feiler in the new NBC miniseries Council of Dads, which premiered March 10, wasn’t so lucky. After Perry’s death, this Council of Dads helps his wife raise five kids.

“I have an old motto from my years fighting this disease—‘Have a cancer conversation every day,’” says Feiler. “Those of us who have been fortunate to get through an ordeal of this nature have the opportunity and obligation to pass along anything we’ve learned that may, in some way, help others. I have been fortunate to get to play that role for almost a dozen years now.”