Sunday, December 9, 2012

Peter Thomas Senese: Christmas, Santa, Peter Pan, and Lessons Learned Fighting Cancer

Yesterday was a completely fulfilling day as I spent the vast majority of the day at Toys R Us and Best Buy shopping for children fighting cancer and other serious illnesses during what has become my annual Christmas tradition of visiting children at several hospitals during this time of year (Okay - I have been blessed to be able to make visits a few times each year: it is something I am sure I will continue to do).

To say the day was deeply gratifying would be an understatement: I do not see the illness these children face and run in despair.  Instead, I see the challenges they face as opportunity to help teach them how to empower themselves and move quicker on a road of good health. And I see a responsibility to share what I have come to learn.

As a multiple cancer conqueror who not only won some serious battles and eventually my own war, there were many things I learned along the way that helped me learn how to fight.

And fight I did during some heavy battles. The first was a tumor occurred 19 years ago and was suppose to cause my right leg to be amputated: today I swim hard, I run fast, and I don't know anyone who can navigate a New York street during rush hour the way I can.

I remember how nearly 16 years ago another tumor in my head was suppose to cause my life to end.  I remember the ordeal, and if you will, the ordeal on top of the ordeal to get healthy.  And I remember what it was like to have experimental treatment.  And to become so weak and so frail. And during this time, to have others show incredible financial greed because they thought I was going to die. And somehow, through it all, to become so damn strong, emotionally, physically, and trusting spiritually.  

And somehow - through that ordeal I was born.

To only face another dragon a year later.  And it was then, during that time, though I did not know it, that I would soon embark on Chasing The Cyclone, for my perspective on life changed, and that, in one sense made me gullible and vulnerable.

But not for long.  And that promise that I made when my life changed forever, drives me today as it did many years ago.  If anything, I have become a bit wiser, a bit stronger, a surely more capable. I know that I have been able to help many children in crisis facing a different threat: the horror of international abduction.  And I know that fate led me down that road of the last cancer fight in order for me to somehow become a person who would fight for these children - and keep fighting.

You see, through all of it, the one thing - and perhaps the most important  thing- was to find the magic that is in life each and every day: magic that surrounds each of us, and to share it.

It was by finding that magic that all other medical and spiritual treatments were elevated and became more tangible. 

Now, I have never wrote about this, but God knows I needed to find the magic because I was diagnosed with Neurofibromatosis II: a disease that caused deadly cancerous tumors to grow on the body's nerve trunks.  Unfortunately, the vast majority of people pass from NF2. However, for the slim few who can survive during the high incubation period where the genome is highly active, there is a very good chance of living a long, long life because the genome that causes NF2 disappears all together.  I know this first-hand because I have had multiple genomic tests - and I have made it through.  I have conquered the dragon. And oddly, the NF2 is not gene related.  How I got this - I still don't know .. but it is gone.

So, I have to admit, I felt joyful shopping the way we did yesterday. And I am very pleased with the cool gifts we picked up the children.
But truth is the real joy for me will be found when I visit several hospitals from now until Christmas - and do something much more than just give out very cool Christmas gifts:  I will talk to some amazing, brave, and eager children and share with them how to see and use the magic in life, and how to use that magic and make it a sword that they can use to beat the dragon.

Sometimes, and with the children's parents permission, I let them touch my scars.  And we laugh about them.  But you see ... it seems they can laugh with me because I am no longer frail and week, but strong and filled with the power of life.  And they see and know this.
I know I have been blessed to beat back the dragon.  I know the promise I made to the God I believe in to help others should I be given the ability to have beaten the dragon.  I know that days like yesterday and the coming days help define my life, give it incredible value, allow me to meet amazing, mighty warriors, and gives me clear sight of the magic that is in all of our lives.

Some of you may be surprised to know that I had successfully fought a serious, life-threatening disease.  And this is the first time I really spoke about it outside of the walls of the hospitals I visit. So thank you for letting me share this - and thank you for allowing me to see the magic many of you have brought into my life: that magic seen is magic shared.

There is one last thing I want to say: the incredible friendships I have made and shared are amongst my most valued treasures.  My friendships have allowed me to be part of several amazing, flourishing communities, and these communities are filled with so much magic and magical people.  And it is what I have come to embrace in the communities I am a part of that I take with me and share with the children fighting the dragon.

It is easy to make a positive difference in another person's life.  All you have to do is believe . . .


P. S. - my dear friend Joel Walter is an amazing attorney who has dedicated so much of his life to helping children.  Children at risk of abduction are fortunate that Joel works diligently as a board member of the I CARE Foundation.  Joel has been with through all of my fights, and always acted in my best interest so that I could live.  His assistance in helping with the children is remarkable.  This season, we do what we do in honor of our dear friend Robert Medori, who passed away this past week.  Robert demonstrated what was the best qualities that was found in men.