Lisa White
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THIS GUEST PIECE BY: Lisa White lives in New Bedford with her husband and daughter. Originally from the west coast, and brought east by her husband's military career, Lisa knew she'd found where she was meant to be when she first saw New Bedford.

 

Ringing the bell, after his last chemotherapy treatment, Vince Peters must have been filled with emotion. He must have been filled with relief that the most recent cancer treatment was complete, grateful to have survived longer than expected, and concerned for his and his wife’s future.

To say that Peters has an inner strength far greater than most would be an understatement. Not because he has overcome a childhood filled with adversity, not because he underwent brain surgery just 16 months ago, not even because he endured the nauseating and draining chemotherapy sessions that followed.

His inner strength became most apparent when after ringing the bell, he put on his uniform, and went from being Patient Peters to Officer Peters, a proud member of the New Bedford Police Department and truly one of New Bedford’s absolute finest.

Beating the odds is something Peters is no stranger to; he’s been doing it his whole life. Born the middle child of five kids, young Vince endured poverty, abuse and even homelessness with his family before celebrating his 10th birthday.

Witnessing his father’s death from prolonged alcohol abuse likely forced him to accept the tragic side of life much sooner than most. While most kids of that age have primary concerns like fixing the chain on their bicycle, being home before the street lights come on or mastering long division, Vince was saddled with adult situations, complex emotional trauma, and very little support to deal with all of it.

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Even with the challenges at home, Peters recalls a happy childhood. He speaks about the adventures he and his friends found in the city of New Bedford. Whether it was exploring the mysteries that Fort Taber had to offer, or curiously discovering vacant historic buildings, his time was never idle.

As he recounts the most exciting tales of boyhood adventure, he conveys a true love for his city. He doesn’t bother to mention that the family had no stable home. He doesn’t want to burden the listener with the fact that, at 10 years old, he had to worry about how to go from being immersed in real-world stress, hardship and situations back to being a kid in grade school again on Monday morning.

He’ll share the information, when asked, but otherwise he keeps it to himself. He does this because Peters has a characteristic that is so rare, it’s almost extinct within our communities these days: he thinks of others.

Undoubtedly Vince’s thoughtfulness and desire to help others lead him to the paths he chose following high school. While his cohorts were out making poor choices and memories they would one day reminisce about, Peters was laying the foundation for a life of civil service. He may not have had anything handed to him growing up, but he still felt the need to give back. First serving his country in the National Guard, and later serving his community as an officer with the New Bedford Police Department, Peters found a true calling in being a real-life hero to all.

Maybe that’s why it came as such a shock to hear the news of his diagnosis. Superheroes don’t get cancer, they can’t. Everyone knows that the good guys always prevail and evil has to be stopped, but what happens when one of the good guys is found to have a life-threatening brain tumor? Who, exactly, saves a hero when the time comes?

One could speculate that the difficulties in his past have given him the strength to push through the pain. The homeless nights of his youth gave him the confidence to see beyond the unknown.

The numerous times he had found joy, when others would have found anger, have given him the optimism to do it all without losing his compassion, his sense of humor, or his desire to help others. It could have been the obstacles he overcame in his younger years that gave him these strengths, but if you ask him, he’ll tell you without skipping a beat, his strength comes from his wife, Kathy.

For Peters, ringing the bell didn’t mean that he was cured. It didn’t mean he beat the disease or that he and his wife have the comfort of knowing what lay ahead for them. For Officer Peters, ringing the bell simply signified the final treatment in the most recent round of chemotherapy.

Sometimes we have the opportunity to have a window into the lives of others. It’s these opportunities that allow us to build awareness and empathy for what others struggle with. Surely if this man can endure so much and still manage to put others before himself, we all could be doing a better job in our own lives.

“Regardless of how you feel about me because of the uniform I proudly wear, my commitment and my promise to be the best that I can be, to help those in need for my city and my community regardless of who you are will never change.” — New Bedford Police Department Officer Vincent Peters, May 31, 2020

Editor's Note: 'SouthCoast Voices' is a series of guest opinions from newsmakers and other people across the region, on relevant issues that directly impact the people of Greater New Bedford and the surrounding communities. The opinions are solely those of the author. If you are interested in contributing, please contact tim@wbsm.com for more information.

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