While playing tennis in Europe, James tripped and broke his neck on the court. He narrowly missed becoming paralyzed for life.
"As soon as I went airborne, I guess out of instinct, my head turned a little bit and I hit my neck instead of hitting right on the top of my head," James says. "If I hit the top of my head, I probably wouldn't be walking anymore, so I'm unbelievably lucky. That makes it so easy to see a silver lining in a bad situation."
James says that breaking his neck was one of the best things to ever happen to him. While recuperating from his injury, James learned that his father, Thomas, was dying of cancer. "I know that if I hadn't [broken my neck], I know my dad was too proud of a man to tell me that he was getting worse and worse," James says. "He wouldn't have wanted me to come home, even though I would have at the drop of hat."
James and his dad spent the time they had together reminiscing about old times and saying the things that had always gone unspoken.
"I let him know how much he meant to me and how much he influenced me and who I am," James says. "He told me he was proud of me, and that was probably the best moment of my life. I needed him to know that it was because of him that I've done everything that I have done."
Six weeks later, his father was gone. Then, within days of his father's death, James was diagnosed with an excruciating case of shingles, which left his face paralyzed and his vision blurred. James says the shingles hurt even worse than his broken neck.