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February 21, 2018 09:00 AM

After battling colon cancer, the Jonas Brothers’ patriarch is in remission — and ready to share his story.

In this week’s issue of PEOPLE, Kevin Jonas Sr. opens up about his devastating diagnosis, how it strengthened his family and the importance of screening for early detection.

On March 7, 2017, Jonas went to the doctor for his first colonoscopy and found a large mass in his colon they suspected to be malignant. “My entire life really flashed in front of me,” says Jonas, who was 52 at the time (50 is the recommended age to begin screenings). “In that moment, I thought, ‘Have I lived a good life? Have I been good to my kids and my wife? Have I done right by people?'”

The Jonas family: Frankie, Kevin Sr., Denise, Kevin, Alena, Danielle, Valentina, Nick and Joe (2017)
Courtesy Kevin Jonas Sr.

Three weeks later, after he underwent surgery to remove the mass, his worst fears were confirmed: He had stage 2 colon cancer. “Suddenly life felt short,” says the North Carolina-based restaurateur, who went on to receive chemotherapy for six months to prevent a recurrence.

From the moment physicians sensed trouble, Jonas’ sons — Jonas Brothers Kevin, 30, Joe, 28, Nick, 25, and “Bonus Jonas” Frankie, 17 — dropped their busy career and school schedules to support their father.

Jonas’s post-op prognosis was positive because the cancer was caught early, but it shook the family regardless.

The Jonas family (June 2010)
Alan Davidson/Silverhub/REX/Shutterstock

“It was a really hard time — feeling like he wasn’t going to make it and not knowing what was ahead of us,” says Denise, his wife of 32 years.

Says Nick: “When I found out about my dad’s diagnosis, it was a balance of hope and real concern and fear. I pray that no one else ever has to go through that.”

The famous clan continued to support Jonas through chemo and various complications from surgery, a polyp, an abscess and a fistula.

“A situation like this makes you wake up and appreciate the ones around you,” says Joe, who is engaged to Game of Thrones actress Sophie Turner, 21.

Kevin Sr. (right) with Joe at a 2017 doctor appointment
Courtesy Kevin Jonas Sr.

Adds Kevin Jr.: “Just spending time together can be the best coping mechanism.”

And the cancer journey only strengthened that bond.

“The boys showed me constantly — through texts, phone calls, visits — how much they love me,” says Jonas, who, as the boys’ original manager, helped launch their music career in 2005.

Finally, on Dec. 22, doctors declared Jonas in remission.

“I want to have more romance with my wife of 32 years, see my kids get married and watch my grandkids grow up,” says Jonas. (Kevin Jr. and his wife, Danielle, 31, have two daughters: Alena, 4, and Valentina, 15 months).

Kevin Jonas Sr.
Courtesy of Fight CRC/ Photography by Travis Howard

And now the former pastor — who opened a restaurant, Nellie’s Southern Kitchen, in Belmont, North Carolina, in 2016 — hopes to save lives by sharing his family’s cancer crisis. Jonas is a new spokesperson for Fight CRC, a national advocacy group that raises awareness about the importance of early detection through screening.

“If you are 50 years or older and you haven’t been screened, the bottom line is you need to be screened. Don’t tell yourself, ‘I don’t have signs or symptoms so I can put this off another year,'” says Anjee Davis, Fight CRC President. “To ease anxiety, I point people to people like Kevin and Denise … It is very empowering for survivors and family members to use their stories to encourage each other and to remind people to be screened.”

For more Kevin Jonas’s colon cancer battle — and colorectal cancer — pick up the new issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands everywhere Friday.

Indeed, “I want everyone to be tested as early as possible. People’s lives can be saved, but waiting could cost you everything,” Jonas says. “If just one person ends up like me and catches their cancer before it’s life-ending, then I’ve been a part of something good.”

For more information contact Fight CRC at fightcolorectalcancer.org.

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