Every so often a shining light of hope flickers across the face of the Earth and shines light in even the darkest of places, sparking hope and stunning the planet with awesome acts of bravery and courage. My colleagues in the media refer to these rays of lights as heroes; ordinary people who have achieved superhuman things in the face of disease, adversity and often death. They are the smiling faces who throw the sleazy politicians, benefit cheats, boozed up soap stars and rampaging criminals off the front pages and show the world that we are all capable of changing the world for good. They force a smile into the hearts of snow queens and bring a tear to the eye of even the burliest of men. Their lives are often cut tragically short, but their actions live on for decades and the legacy of their courage and the hope they inspire lasts forever.
Cancer victim Stephen Sutton was not a hero, in my eyes he was a superhero. In the face of death he reminded us of the true meaning of life, to be happy, to love, laugh and smile everyday. He selflessly taught a nation to stop being so self absorbed, to push aside their differences, iPads and androids, to embrace life and to fall in love all over again.
Opening up my tablet edition of the Daily Mirror today and seeing his smiling face splashed across the front page I was faced with mixed emotions. I wanted to cry for the loss of someone so young, so brave, so intelligent and with so much life. I wanted to sob for his family and for all the things he would never get to do in his life. But I also couldn’t help but smile at the cheeky grin peeking out from under the oxygen mask, and the hopeful glimmer in his eye despite the monitors, trips and wires. The 19-year-old smiles back from the front of the national newspapers to remind us of what we can achieve even in our darkest hours if we just think of others, if we learn to love and we embrace our humanity.
He was just one teenager but his story touched the heart of a nation. Stephen passed away in his sleep yesterday following a four year battle against cancer. It is a tragedy that the world has to lose someone so special, so inspirational and so young. There is no doubt that what he achieved was remarkable. Raising any money for charity is a difficult task, but to inspire the world to donate over £4M to help save other people’s lives while battling bowel cancer is almost unbelievable.
The Mirror hails the 19-year-old as “a credit to humanity” – to me he wasn’t just that: he was the face of hope and the embodiment of everything that is good about mankind.
Bowel cancer is a horrendous disease which claims far too many lives. And as someone with IBD I know all to well the reality of living with the knowledge of increased risk of the third most common form of cancer, and have seen it strike down many people within the IBD community. I hope Stephen realises how much good he managed to achieve in his short time on Earth. How many lives his fundraising total could save, and how many people could be saved from the grip of cancer by his story and the awareness it has raised. He was a true advocate of hope, selflessly putting his story out into the world simply to help other people, while he could have (rightfully) spent his last few months privately with his family he let in the world and hopefully helped to save some of us in the process.
You only have to read this quote from his final interview given last week to realise how selfless this young man was. I don’t doubt that his legacy will live on and that his story will help to save hundreds if not thousands of lives.
“I’ve realised that you only get one shot at life. I need to make every second count. I firmly believe that you should have the same motto. But don’t rely on tragedy to have a good time. Make positive changes today. When you look at the positives of life, there is so much to enjoy, there is so much to be excited about.”
Amen to that Stephen. I hope you rest in peace knowing the lasting smile you have left on the face of mankind.
To donate to Stephen’s just giving page text STEPHEN to 70500 or visit https://www.justgiving.com/stephen-sutton-tct