Warning: This article contains mentions of suicide. If you or someone you love needs help, call Lifeline on 13 11 14.
On paper, Peter Di Prinzio’s trials and tribulations are enough to make anyone fall apart – jail time, being cheated on, losing contact with his daughter, a suicide attempt and a terminal cancer diagnosis. But Peter sees everything he’s been through as another opportunity to show the world who he really is.
Now a motivational speaker and mentor, Peter shared his story on Finding Hope.
Peter was born in Newcastle in the early 1960s to Italian parents and had a strong Catholic upbringing. Peter’s family spoke fluent Italian in the home, and, as a result, Peter didn’t begin learning English until kindergarten – an experience he regards as his first major hurdle.
“When I went to school, I had no idea what they were talking about. I cried for months,” Peter said.
“When I look back now, I thank my parents. But at the time, I was asking ‘why?’”
Despite learning English quickly, Peter didn’t take well to school – he was relentlessly bullied and started acting out. At 15, Peter left school and found work in a pizzeria, where he remained for six years. And, at 21 years old, despite having no formal education requirements, Peter began working in a finance firm. However, he soon found himself in trouble while trying to impress a girl.
“I was working in financial planning, and her father and brother had just been retrenched, so had a substantial amount of money. I told them to invest at a variable rate,” Peter said.
“But in 1987, we had one of the biggest stock market crashes in Australia.”
Peter’s clients lost all their money, but, in a desperate attempt to rectify the situation, Peter committed fraud.
“I saw that [my clients] were upset, so I reacted to the situation. So, I started asking my friends to invest with me, to bulk my clients’ account back up,” he said.
“I was trying to do the right thing [by my clients who lost everything], but they found out and went to the police.”
Peter was sentenced to two years in prison and spent time in both Maitland Maximum Security Jail and St Hellier’s – a minimum security facility in Muswellbrook, NSW. While there, he made a promise to himself – that he would never return to prison, and he did everything in his power to make good on that promise.
“There’s what they call a weekly buy up in jail. And there’s a section that you can make special requests,” Peter said.
“Every week, I ordered Success Magazine. The officer had never even heard of it, but, every week, I read different stories of people who were down and out but became successful.
“I used my two years to educate myself, to give myself a second chance. I read good books; I prayed every day. I was building myself up for the release.”
Peter couldn’t wait to get out of prison and return to his family and society. But some of Peter’s cellmates didn’t have anything to look forward to on the other side. Some reoffended almost immediately on their release in order to return to the safety of prison walls of routine, safety and three meals a day.
“There was a man I was inside with who was finishing eight years for armed robbery,” Peter said.
“I [asked him] what he was going to do once he was released, and he told me that he was going to get out and do it again.”
A free man
After two years, Peter was released and returned to the outside world. After an adjustment period, Peter returned to finance – and soon afterwards, was in business with NRL star Paul Harrigan, overseeing a new clothing line. However, when Paul caught wind of Peter’s past, the deal was dropped – and Peter was left with nothing.
After the failed deal, Peter moved to Sydney where he met his wife, married and had a daughter. However, Peter’s bubble of domestic bliss was shattered when he discovered his wife was having an affair.
“My wife was having an affair with her boss,” Peter said.
“She told me to walk away, she sent me the divorce papers and then took off with my daughter.”
A dark spiral
Following the divorce, and unable to find his daughter, Peter fell into a deep depression. Unable to keep a roof over his head, Peter moved in with his aunt and uncle in Western Sydney. However, in March of 2008, the pain of the past was too much for Peter to bear, and he attempted suicide.
A few hours afterwards, Peter was awoken by a police officer – an encounter which he says saved his life.
Peter was awoken by a police officer – an encounter which he says saved his life.
“I heard a knock on my car window, and there was a policeman at the window,” Peter said.
“He asked me how I was doing and made me promise something. He said, ‘promise me from this moment that you’ll keep smiling’.
“I believe that policeman was the guardian angel that had to wake me up.”
The man who never gives up
From then on, Peter was determined to make the most of his life. He started to find his feet again – getting a new job in finance and earning a living for himself. He became resilient, despite his trials – and developed his trademark “never give up” attitude. But in 2014, another almost impossible obstacle was put in his place – a terminal cancer diagnosis.
Peter was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a cancer with a prognosis of around 12 months.
“I remember laying there and listening to the doctors, and I knew that if I was to accept [my prognosis], my body would react to that and I would die,” Peter said.
“I couldn’t accept that. So that night, I lay in my hospital bed, and visualised that I would be on stage one day, speaking.
“I believed that I was already healed, I just had to have the faith in God that it would happen.”
Through a mixture of chemotherapy and traditional medicine, as well as visualisation, prayer and the power of positive thinking – Peter was in remission within six months.
That was eight years ago.
Today, Peter inspires people every day with his story – as a motivational speaker and mentor. And, despite everything, he wouldn’t replace a single chapter of his story.
“Attitude is the most important thing with anything you face in life. David was told that no one was able to beat Goliath, but he did.”
“Attitude is the most important thing with anything you face in life,” Peter said.
“David was told that no one was able to beat Goliath, but he did.
“I have faced so many Goliaths in my life, and I’ve slayed every one.”