When Make-A-Wish Foundation approached Peter Srsich, a stage-four cancer patient, the 17-year-old boy had an unusual request: he wanted to meet the pope. Two years later, the Colorado teen is in remission - and he has credited his encounter with the Benedict XVI with helping him beat the cancer.
Srsich, a devout Catholic who is now studying for priesthood, knows that his cancer was cured thanks to decades of medical research and his doctors' extensive training - but he believes that meeting the pontiff in Rome has restored his faith and gave him strength to fight for his life.
For Peter, the harrowing ordeal started in 2011 with a simple cough. When the lanky 6-foot-6 lacrosse player returned from a canoe trip in July of that year, he felt overwhelmed with the kind of fatigue that he had never experienced before, ABC News reported.
The family suspected that the boy came down with pneumonia, but the reality was much more terrifying: doctors discovered a softball-sized mass in his left lung that was pressing on his heart. The tumor was diagnosed as a stage-four cancer.
Luckily for Peter, he was young, strong and very athletic, giving him a good chance for survival.What followed was six months of grueling cancer treatment, which included seven rounds of chemotherapy that left the teenager completely bald.
Srsich's diagnosis and treatment had another impact on the boy: it plunged him into depression and made him question why all this was happening to him.
Finally, his turn was up to meet the pope. Towering over the diminutive pontiff, Peter told him that he had cancer and asked him for a blessing. And then something unexpected happened.
‘He looked at me and said, “Oh, you speak English?” and put his hand on my chest right where the tumor had been, even though I had not mentioned it to him,’ Peter recalled. ‘The blessing is usually on the head.’
‘Chemo helped me fight the cancer. Make-A-Wish helped me fight the chemo,’ he told ABC. ‘Knowing the pope was in my future helped me get through that, and in a small, non-miraculous way, helped cure my cancer.’