Understandably, no one plans on getting cancer. Many times we never see it coming. It can derail the life of the person in hits, and the lives of those that love him or her. There is no question it is devastating blow. Each person’s response and journey will take on a life of its own based on a great many factors.
For many, survival becomes the fight of their life. Some lose, through no fault of their own. Some win and become inspired, and are forever changed by the experience.
One such person is Officer James Seneca. When James was just 26 (in 1987) he was diagnosed with Leukemia. James would beat the thirty percent odds he was given and not allow it to derail a path he had been just two weeks into upon his diagnosis. Young James was taking part in police training at the Buffalo Police Academy.
Though undeterred from an existing goal, becoming a police officer (Now in Aurora Colorado) a new perspective and a new mission came from his illness and recovery:
“It’s just simple compassion. I was spared so I could help these families.”
In these tough economic times it may not be difficult to imagine someone, or a family, having financial issues, such as paying rent, or for food. Try imagining having those concerns and having to deal with cancer. Having to deal with major surgery, radiation, and or chemotherapy. Or maybe a person can’t afford their treatment.
CFC does what it can to support, in any way possible, Colorado families coping with cancer. I had the privilege to interview James. Please give it a read and visit the CFC website. Consider making a donation or buying a cookbook or cool t-shirt! I just bought mine!
Jeff: Between family, being a police office, and Cops Fighting Cancer, how do you balance them all?
James: I pretty much live and die helping families with cancer and if anyone needs help then I drop everything and contact them and see what their greatest need might be. But I do have some great people and staff that help me so it’s not just me anymore running CFC.
I have three great kids who live in San Antonio, Texas with their mother. When I go visit with my children in Texas or when they are here with me for the summer that is when I relax.
Jeff: Where is CFC now in terms of size, dollars raised and number of people helped?
James: We have helped well over 200 families from throughout the state and visited with over 7,000 patients at our annual Children’s hospital event. We have raised close to $750,000 over the years and it’s quite competitive with these other non profits, which number close to 20,000 in the state of Colorado.
Jeff: That’s great James. Go back to the beginning… What were the biggest challenges or obstacles in growing CFC? And was there ever a point where you almost stopped? If so, what kept you going? How did you overcome the challenges?
James: It was like pushing a loco motive by yourself and it slowly started moving and here we are almost 13 years later. The biggest challenge was getting people to believe in what we were trying to accomplish in the community.
But our idea was unique because I was a survivor and could relate to these families who had cancer.
Raising money is always a challenge and finding the time and trying to juggle all these things in my life.
Yes I have almost stopped a number of times because of the heartache of building relationships with some of these special people than unfortunately they pass away. It is especially hard when they involve children. What keeps me strong and moving forward is GOD, because I know this is my calling. So I rely on him for my strength.
Jeff: And you are quite strong. You’ve been fighting cancer for a long time; both as a survivor and by helping others through CFC… What are one or two of the changes for the better over the years that you have noticed in cancer care?
James: Since my first diagnosis on August 17th 1987 (leukemia) my survivor rate was only 30 percent, today for my cancer its 80 percent. The survivor rates are much better but people and children are still dying!
Jeff: That’s one big reason why we have to keep fighting! But the improved survival rates are great and do offer hope… What are the most common concerns or needs an individual or family might have when they come to you?
James: The most common concern is financial and emotional support and we try and provide both with their personal battle against cancer.
Jeff:I see you are pretty widespread throughout the state of Colorado… Are there similar Cops Fighting Cancer organizations in other states?
James: We are the only police related organization that does what we do but there are others that do other things for families. Our goal is to widen the opportunity for other agencies around the country someday.
Jeff: Sometimes there can be friction between law enforcement and local communities, has CFC helped to bond and show communities a different side to the police? And vice versa, have officers gained any new perspectives on the communities they serve?
James: Yes it has created a better relationship between the community and the various local police departments because it shows the real compassionate side of police officers helping families in the community
Our officers love helping families with cancer and it puts things in perspective for them and some can relate from their own personal experience with cancer.
Jeff: There are some heartbreaking and heartwarming testimonials on your site about people whose lives you have helped… “Valerie” has outlived her stage 4 diagnoses. How often do you find that happens and how important is the hope that the person has and the hope you assist people in having by your support in their journey?
James: Our mission statement is Hope, Support and Compassion and we believe that we give all three of these important things to these special families. We give people that glimmer of hope that they need sometimes when they are hanging on by a thread. There are so many amazing people out there and we are so blessed to have helped so many families over the years.
Jeff: I’m so sorry for her family and for you. How long beyond what the doctors told her did she survive?
James: Unfortunately Valerie passed away last year and left four young children at the age of 32.
(Editor’s note: CFC did make a big difference in Valerie’s fight, to hear/watch her testimonial, click here)
Jeff: Is there a story or accomplishment of CFC not on your site that sticks out to you
James: Wow, there are so many stories and people out there that changed my life. Every person and family that we have helped is so very special.
Like Justin Miller who fought his cancer like a roaring lion.
Breanna Martinez who loved GOD with all of her heart and confronted a Doctor who didn’t believe in GOD.
The Miguel Pedro story; where we fulfilled his dream of becoming an honorary police officer before he died.
The list could go on and on with so many amazing stories. I hope to write a book someday to share some of these amazing experiences about these unbelievable people and their courageous battles against cancer.
Jeff: You should write a book! What changes, if any, have you made in your life as a result of your cancer? (As far diet, exercise and perspective on life?)
James: I love to eat so it’s not my diet but moderation is the key. My FAITH is first and foremost in my life. I work out six days a week and currently in the best shape of my life.
You have to be in the best shape of your life in all aspects in order to help people. My perspective on life has definitely changed and has taught me not to take things for granted especially the health of my children and your own personal health. Every day is a blessing!
Jeff: Indeed James… If a friend asked you for your three best cancer-preventing tips… They would be?
James: Exercise, don’t smoke, and don’t drink… which I practice every day!
Jeff: As someone on the front lines in the fight, and as a survivor, what would you like to see more of being done?
James: More funding and grants to help families financially because they struggle terribly when fighting their battle and the bills keep coming in no matter what.
We helped two families in one month when they were ready to be evicted. We stopped that process and gave them a check to stop the eviction. What a great feeling!
Jeff: That’s so great that CFC does that… Many times when people think of volunteering they think of the giving aspects of it, what are some of the benefits your volunteers get out of working with CFC?
James: Our volunteers get the opportunity to help with cancer patients and their families especially children, which is huge reward to our volunteers. It’s a very fulfilling experience to help these families and the sick children at Colorado Children’s hospital every year. It definitely puts things into perspective for them!
Jeff: So it sounds like they get direct and real hands on experience?
James: Yes they do in many ways!
Jeff: What are some simple ways someone reading this can make a difference in the fight against cancer?
James: The main ingredient is coming up with various fundraising ideas to help our families. Any donations or fundraising ideas would be greatly appreciated and any media interest would be great as well to get the word out. I was in People magazine in March 2007 called People Hero’s among us which gave us some great exposure.
Jeff: So if someone has an idea for a fundraiser who should they contact? And whom should media inquiries be direct to?
James: All inquiries should be directed to me at 720-938-3810.
Jeff: What has been your best fundraiser?
James: Our best and greatest fundraiser was where we held a boxing event called Battle of the Badges. It was a huge success!
Jeff: Do you know what and when the next fundraiser will be?
James: We are hoping for a boxing event in the fall between police and fire. More to follow.
Jeff: If someone wants to get involved with CFC, donate, volunteer, buy a cool t-shirt, or just learn more, your website is?
James: People can make donations on our website located on our donation page through pay pal and the web site is: copsfightingcancer.org
Jeff: And for someone in the Colorado area who may need your help, who do they contact? How do they qualify?
James: People needing assistance can go to our website and go to our nomination page and fill out the information and our director Alice Jackson will get back to them.
Jeff: Any last thought you would like to share?
James: Our organization is so blessed to have had the opportunity to help so many families over the years and we will continue our mission until they find a cure for cancer.
Great… Keep up the great work you do with CFC and the police. Stay safe and stay healthy!