Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Heroes, Miracles, Neverland, Lost Boys and Peter Pan

This Christmas Holiday I had the privilege and blessing to be able to visit children presently in the hospital fighting the dragons of cancer or some other life-threatening illness. I have had the opportunity of doing this for some time now.  And no matter how many times I have visited children in the hospital fighting cancer, it never gets easy.  Yet, I cannot deny the deep amount of love that is shared and felt, and in this, there is no denying that God exists, has a plan, and it is one that is so complex and complicated that I do not understand it.

As a multiple cancer survivor, I do ask the God I believe in why did you allow me to stay while, sadly, painfully, and overwhelmingly tragically, some of these beautiful children will not?

I will be the first to admit that even though I consider my faith to be very strong, and that I do see the world with optimistic eyes, there are many times when I do not understand why this is the plan for some of these children?

And I know the battles that chidlren face first-hand, not just on my own account, but because of my beautiful niece - who today, over 5 years now past since she first fought the dragon - is a conqueror.

There are no words that could explain the complex feelings that swelled in my heart over the past few days that have caused a tireless current of various emotions that push and pull at my being. This feeling is not new, but one that is rather familiar. It is both sustaining and alarming. And like most things that cause an array of emotions, the feelings that hold me are magnified because of my own personal experiences with the events of the day.

All of you know me as Peter Thomas Senese, an author and advocate of children. But you see, many of the children I am dedicated to see me not as the adult that I try so hard not to be, but for who I am in spirit: Peter Pan -fighter of the dragon that tries to steal life in the form of cancer or some other nasty disease.

And the other day was one of those incredibly special days when my inner Peter Pan had taken flight and visited many children in the hospital who were in the midst of their own fight with the dragon. In my spirit, I carried the wonderful spirit of my niece, and the goodness of my friend Robert who was made of pure goodness before God called him to join him in Heaven a few weeks ago after a protracted fight with the dragon, and my friend Stacey who is fighting the dragon now ... and so many others ... but their spirits gave me 'lift'.

Fighting the dragon of cancer is something I am not new to. You see, I have had a share of cancer fights that over the years caused tumors to grow in areas of my body. In fact, I was diagnosed with a disease long ago that had a low survival rate, and chances were that my life-span was expected to be limited because of the high mortality rate of my cancer disease.

Well, my diagnosis of 15 years ago that included making sure I got my 'affairs' in order missed one important mark: I'm still here, extremely healthy, and a Conqueror of Cancer. In fact, the genetic testing of the gene strain that caused my very complex form of cancer to occur . . . and keep coming back is now gone from my body.

 Seriously: the dragon that ravaged my body is gone.

And if you didn't know that I fought the dragon on numerous occasions, then chances are that you would not know of my many battles because my body is strong, my scars have healed, and by no means have I become anything less than a warrior who shares with others wisdom I have learned and gained about how to see the magic in life, and how to use this magic to fight the dragon.

I know that the time I live here on this planet really is a gift.

I know that the wisdom I gained fighting a disease that by all odds, was suppose to take my life in a cruel way, but failed, has helped many others.

I know the precious value of celebrating life and seeing the magic.

And I know that the Peter Pan in me allows me to talk to children in a way that they understand.

So on days like yesterday, my inner Peter Pan takes flight and visits children who fight the dragon.

My visits to an assortment of hospitals are incredible journeys. I have now traveled for 13 years. Each year I learn many new things, yet I am reminded of many of the same wonderment's that existed or were taught the year before, including most importantly that life's magic and embracing this magic is the key to happiness.

My support to find a cure for cancer has been steadfast for well over a decade. I am quite proud that I have been able to find a way in my own life to be able to provide resources to help fight cancer, while also being able to assist others who fight the fight.

Yesterday, I had a chance to visit two New York City area hospitals that specialize in treating children with life-threatening illnesses.

It is a day I look forward to more than any other day of the year, though my visits to hospitals occur several times a year.

Perhaps the difference is that on this day I travel with many cool gifts that originate from the spirit of Neverland . . . gifts carefully saved for throughout the year by me and a few of my friends from Neverland.

And though I look forward to my visit, truth is fighting cancer or any life-threatening illness is not easy for anyone, yet alone for a child and their family.

Yet, I know first-hand just how important it is for anyone in the midst of the fight to 'Think of Happy Thoughts' ... because happy thoughts allows your spirit to fly and soar - and fight! And few know the importance of 'Happy Thoughts' more than Peter Pan.

My day was filled with a great amount of laughter and incredible love.

I am in awe of the true heroes to these children: their mothers and fathers and sisters and brothers.  I know each of these parents would do anything possible to help take away the danger their child faces. As I met with many of them, I remembered in vivid detail the time when I was Chasing The Cyclone of child abduction when two dragons showed up at my family's doorstep.  Nor will I ever forget the incredible love that existed as parents to child.

My life has been touched forever due to my battles with the dragon.  And I have often said that these battles, as it turned out, were a blessing in my life for they helped create who I am today.

For whatever reason, God allowed me to become a gifted storyteller capable of sharing enchanting stories with children.

And so my day, joined by my dear friend Patricia (Tinkerbell) and Fred (Twister), was filled with sharing stories that grasped at the children's and their parents' hearts. And we were so blessed because along the way we recruited a wonderful group of 'Lost Adults' as I called them from Iowa who came to New York on a ministry to help those impacted by Hurricane Sandy. Pastor Rick, Jane, Jenna, and Debbie had no idea what they were getting into when they stepped in the elevator, but we were sure glad they did because they were so incredibly helpful in so many ways. New friends were made that shared something so incredible.

Sometimes I would enter a room and look around and say, "Hey, you're in my old bed!" While other times, I would introduce myself by saying in a low voice, "Hi, I'm Peter Pan. And I came to see you from Neverland. And I have some presents for you from the Lost Boys and Girls. Do you think the adults can see me?" Or, "I'm Peter Pan, and I'm looking for someone who wants to come on an adventure and help me fight Captain James C. Hook. Are you interested in an adventure?"

For whatever the reason, the children I was blessed to visit appeared to connect with me.

There were stories told, really cool presents opened, prayers said, jokes told, and trust . . . a lot of trust. You see, when I told the children that I fought the cousin of the dragon that they were fighting and beat him, they became very interested in what I had to say.

It was then that the room became very small, and it felt as if it was just me and one of my new pals. And for the few minutes that we were locked in together, I allowed them to touch one of the scars on my head, and to feel the tight-ball of a muscle of my bicep, and to listen to my words of encouragement. And during this time, I explained some things that were so important, including how important it was for them to find their 'Happy Thoughts' all the time.

I can't begin to share with you the depth of what was given to me yesterday. Truth is for as much as I may have shared, it was the children that gave so much to me.

Hope is the most powerful tool in the world. When we learn to see the magic around us, we are able to see and embrace hope. When we embrace hope, our lives become enriched.

Faith is a very important part of my own life. In my faith, of course I questioned often why God would allow for these children to go through what they are. It was a similar set of questions I asked often during the time when one of my young family members had to fight the dragon (successfully).

Words the express my hope that the men and women who dedicate their lives to finding a cure for cancer travel with God speed on their quest could never be properly expressed. I am in awe of those individuals who have dedicated their lives to helping find cures to all diseases, and have been blessed to know over the years some of the world's leading genomic scientist who get up every day trying to make a difference.

But most of all, in the eyes of these amazing children I had the great privilege of visiting with yesterday, I saw the hope of mankind and the goodness that exists in each of us.

The lessons these children shared with me are lessons I will continue to embrace. One of which I would like to share with you:

We all have the ability of making a positive difference in the life of another. The magic of life is clearly found when we act compassionately.

Sadly, it would be unrealistic for me to think that all the children I met with will overcome the challenges they face, thought I have learned in life that anything is possible.  



Still, my heart is heavy knowing the journey these children are on.

Yes, I try to take comfort knowing that the God I believe in does have a plan for each and every person. And I am smart enough to know that I do not have the capacity to understand all that God has in store for each of us. The heaviness of my heart is tempered by my belief in Heaven. I learned a long time ago I am not afraid of dying here . . . in fact, for a few seconds of my own life, during the time when I had the tumor in my noggin and was receiving experimental therapy treatment, my own heart did stop. And as I just said ... I do believe in Heaven.

My wish for each of you is that you embrace each and every moment of life. Life really is filled with magic. It appears that it comes down to how each of us decides to see.

I ask that you keep in your prayers all individuals who are not in good health, particularly children, because God really does listen.

And as for me . . . my 'Peter Pan' will continue to guide my life.  I am sure I will be visiting a few more hospitals over the coming weeks in Los Angeles and in Florida.

And I am now committed to create a traveling theater troupe of actors who are willing to play in an adaptation of Peter Pan I have in mind.

Over the coming days, and in my capacity as the Founding Director of the I CARE Foundation, I know that we are going to be extremely busy trying to assist parents who recently had their child internationally kidnapped during the Christmas holiday season.  The tragedy of having a child abducted to a foreign country is beyond a nightmare, and a true danger for innocent children.

Hopefully our preparation for these coming days will make a difference in the lives of us.  And so - we will fight for innocent children.

 Remember my friends . . . "Embrace Hope, Know Faith . . . And Think Happy Thoughts'.