Stoke & Staffordshire

How Stephen Sutton inspired others

Stephen Sutton
Image caption Stephen Sutton raised more than £3.2m for the Teenage Cancer Trust

As thousands gather to pay their respects to cancer fundraiser Stephen Sutton, BBC News Online meets some of those who say how he has inspired them.

It was his boundless optimism and bright, boyish grin - even from the confines of a hospital bed - as much as his achievement in raising more than £4m for charity that endeared Stephen Sutton to thousands across the world.

Not only was the Burntwood 19-year-old, who was diagnosed with terminal cancer while studying for his GCSEs, a beacon for all who knew him - he also touched the lives of many who did not.

In particular, many of those families whose lives have also been shattered by cancer drew comfort and inspiration from Stephen's irrepressible take on life, as encapsulated by his bucket list of "weird and wonderful" things to do before he died.

As thousands gather to pay their respects to Stephen, who died on 14 May, BBC News meets those who say he has helped shape their outlook on life.

Mohini's story

Image caption Mohini Samani, who was diagnosed with leukaemia when she was nine, says she empathised with Stephen

"I do think I can empathise with Stephen and I honestly admire him for what he's done," says Mohini Samani, 15, from Smethwick, who was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia when she was nine.

"I'd love to be able to have the impact he had because he has literally taken the nation by storm and everybody understands cancer so much better.

"It's people like Stephen who are going to make cancer easier for children and young people in the future.

"Cancer is one of those things you will never understand until you experience it. It's really hard to get your head around.

"All of a sudden, it's like you're on this little island and nobody else understands what's happening. Your friends don't know what to say. Your family doesn't know what to say.

"I had two-and-a-half years where I was in theatre every week - drips, lines, tablets. It wasn't nice but it just becomes your life. Shockingly, it just becomes so normal.

"I'm in remission but there's no certainty. It could come back tomorrow. I've accepted it. My life is never going to be normal. My life is never going to be easy. But it's my life and I wouldn't really have it any other way."

Georgia's story

Image copyright Nicola Thompson
Image caption Now in remission, Georgia Thompson - pictured here with her mum Nicola - wants to do a sky dive for charity

Georgia was nine when she was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia.

Her mother, Nicola Thompson, a legal advisor from Loughborough, says she had been touched by Stephen's positive attitude.

"It's so easy to be negative about cancer and lose hope," she says. "That was the most inspiring thing about Stephen, but also the most difficult thing about watching him go through that. He must have had his dark times and yet he remained so positive.

"Since following him, Georgia has decided to do a sponsored skydive to raise money for Macmillan this summer.

"Some days, the Macmillan nurses were the only people we saw and they were a fantastic support. Now Georgia wants to give something back, like Stephen did.

"As a child, she was into everything - cheerleading, dancing, singing, cross-country running. She had to give it all up when she got the diagnosis and that was really hard. She was in her last year of primary school and she missed out on a lot of her adolescence.

Image copyright Nicola Thompson
Image caption Georgia was diagnosed with leukaemia at the age of nine

"I remember she was very frightened. She had just lost her granddad to cancer. Her first question to the doctor was, "Am I going to die?"

"Her second was: "Am I going to lose all my hair?" It was heartbreaking for me as her mother watching her going through that.

"She had two-and-a-half years of chemotherapy and after that they told her she was in remission. She's now 18 and has been in remission for six years.

"She still gets tired and that's tough for her. That's why the story of somebody like Stephen is so inspiring. We started following him on Facebook earlier this year.

"I thought the bucket list was amazing and what he was trying to achieve was to make his life a positive impact for teenage cancer. I totally understood what he was saying about the importance of early diagnosis because Georgia was diagnosed late as well."

Kate's story

Image copyright Kate Granger
Image caption Like Stephen, Kate Granger, pictured here with her husband Chris, compiled a bucket list of things she wants to do before she dies

"Two days after I was diagnosed, I also wrote a bucket list - and there are quite a few similarities between what Stephen and I wanted to do," says Kate Granger, 32, from Wakefield, who was diagnosed with terminal cancer in 2011.

"We both wanted to get a tattoo - I had a butterfly tattooed on my left ankle.

"We both wanted to go on holiday with our friends. We've both been fundraising - I've raised around £126,000 so far. And we both wanted to go skydiving.

"I plan to jump out of a plane in August to raise money for the Yorkshire Cancer Centre in Leeds. I'm terrified.

"There are a huge number of parallels between myself and Stephen. I became aware of his story when it hit the mainstream media.

Image copyright Kate Granger
Image caption Kate says all the fundraising events she has done have helped give her a positive focus

"Like Stephen, I think those kind of positive experiences help you live life to the full and, more importantly, create perfect memories for your friends and family. There's an urgency about things - if you don't do it now, you never will.

"The bucket list is also helpful for my husband, Chris. He was very upset about the whole situation but this has given him a really positive focus.

"I've just been through my second round of chemotherapy. I finished it in February and I'm now back at work three days a week. I'm a doctor, specialising in hospital medicine for older people. I love my job and my patients - they give me a reason to get out of bed in the morning.

"In October, they found my cancer had progressed really quickly. My oncologist told me if we did nothing, I was looking at about eight weeks. The chemotherapy has put the brakes on the cancer but for how long, I don't know."

The Teenage Cancer Trust's story

Image caption Stephen's impact on the charity has been "amazing," says its chief executive Siobhan Dunn

"Stephen was an extraordinary young man who has had an amazing impact on the Teenage Cancer Trust and our ability to support more young people with cancer," says Siobhan Dunn, chief executive of the charity.

"The money is remarkable. To have raised £4m is an extraordinary amount of money and nobody has ever done that in our 24-year history.

"However, as important as the money is the awareness that Stephen has raised of the fact that young people get cancer.

"He has shone a light on that and he has been able to articulate so beautifully and so simply what the issues are for a young person with cancer, doing it with great humility, courage and, above all, humour."

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