The achievements of a terminally-ill teenager in raising more than £1.5 million for charity have been hailed as ‘incredible’ by comedian Jason Manford, who wants to help him reach £2 million.
Stephen Sutton was diagnosed with what was initially bowel cancer, when he was 15. Despite surgery, the aggressive cancer spread to different parts of his body and, after further treatment and operations, doctors concluded it is incurable.
Fighting the disease, Stephen decided to set up a bucket-list of 46 things to do before he dies and also launched an inspirational campaign to raise money for the Teenage Cancer Trust and give other people the motivation to ‘enjoy life’.
Jason said he had met the teenager, from Burntwood, Staffordshire, at charity gigs and was inspired to get involved by his positive attitude as he strove to make the best of his situation.
He told ITV’s Daybreak: “That’s what got their imaginations going really. It was that he just had such joy for life. He wasn’t bitter about leaving the party early, he was just happy that he was ever invited at all.
“He’s 19, which is no age at all. There’s so many things he’s not going to be able to do, but there’s something he said on his Facebook page and on his website – he said that life shouldn’t be measured in time, it should be measured in achievements you’ve accomplished and I thought ‘This guy’s 19’, and it really got to me.”
Stephen set up an initial fundraising target of £10,000 for the Teenage Cancer Trust, but that target was smashed by a huge number of public donations as publicity around his cause spread.
He then aimed to reach a new target of £1 million, which he achieved on Wednesday.
Jason said the amount raised was ‘incredible’.
“It’s really all Stephen,” he added. “All I was able to do was sort of amplify it, I guess, and use the magic of social media to make sure that it got out there.”
Jason has now called on the public to help Stephen make £2 million for the charity.
He tweeted: “Let’s not stop now! That 2 million make is in easy reach! Stephen gave us his ‘sat thumbs up’ lets give him one back.”
He also tweeted a picture of himself with a sheet of paper with the words: “#thumbsupforStephen. Txt STEPHEN to 70500 to donate £5.”
Stephen set up his charity fundraising website and blog on Facebook in January last year to keep people up to date with his progress.
He posted his final blog entry on Tuesday after his condition worsened. He wrote that tumours in his chest had caused his right lung to collapse, leaving him short of breath in bed after even the smallest amount of exertion, adding ‘unfortunately I haven’t got much time left’.
He added that future updates on the page would ‘probably be from a family member’, but if he had the energy he would try to post a few tweets.
Thanking family, friends and fundraisers, he said: “That’s it from me. But life has been good. Very good.”
Siobhan Dunn, chief executive of the Teenage Cancer Trust, praised the inspiring teenager and ambassador for the charity.
She said: “I’ve had the privilege of meeting him and his positivity is always remembered by all that meet him or hear him speak.
“Stephen himself says he doesn’t see the point in measuring life in time, rather that he’d prefer to measure a life in the difference someone makes. Stephen is making the biggest possible difference to Teenage Cancer Trust and the young people who need our help.
“We’re a relatively small charity and Stephen has inspired his family, friends and communities up and down the country to raise over £1,300,000 and it’s still climbing. This is a remarkable amount which will help us support many more young people with cancer.”
Speaking previously, Stephen said he disliked the term ‘dying from my cancer – I am living with my cancer, despite it being there’.
His bucket-list included things like hugging an elephant, crowd-surfing in a rubber dinghy, playing the drums at a Wembley cup final, getting a tattoo and appearing on BBC drama Doctors.
Explaining why he set up his bucket-list, he said it was not so much for him but to show other people that life was for living.