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The Inspiration of Stephen Sutton

Like millions of people around the world, we were deeply saddened at the news of Stephen Sutton's death two weeks ago. He had captured the hearts of not only our nation, but those of people all over the world, who were in awe of and inspired by his courage and continued zest for life despite his terminal cancer. Stephen, who had said "I don't see the point in measuring life in time anymore, I would rather measure it in terms of what I actually achieve. I'd rather measure it in terms of making a difference, which I think is a much more valid and pragmatic measure" was diagnosed with metastatic bowel cancer in September 2010 when he was just 15.

Two years later his cancer, having spread to his pelvis, was deemed incurable. A star student - Stephen got A* and A grades in all of his GCSEs and A-Levels – he had wanted to be a doctor and had been interviewed at Cambridge to study medicine. After his diagnosis he withdrew his application and turned his attention to his next ambition, a 46-point bucket list. His number one aim, though, was to raise £10,000 for the Teenage Cancer Trust (TCT) and it didn't take him long to do it. Optimistic in the face of a terrible illness, committed to living as best as he could no matter how short his life might be.

He could have stopped at that, after all it was a fantastic achievement. Instead he upped his target to a cool million. He was well on his way when last month his health took a turn for the worse. He began to experience breathing difficulties and was hospitalised. He sent out what he thought would be his final selfie, typically for Stephen he was smiling with both his thumbs up. But by this time Sutton's story was out and going viral, his Justgiving page was tweeted by everyone from Jason Manford to Benedict Cumberbatch and the money started rolling in. A million pounds was raised while Stephen was still in his hospital bed, and just like the no make-up selfies, this is became story of what a tremendous force for good social media can be.

Stephen made something of a miraculous recovery of sorts for a while – and many believe it was the positivity of the support, both financially for the charity and personally for Stephen, that he received from the UK and around the world that helped him pick up – and he did get out of hospital for a short while, but just 10 days later his breathing difficulties returned and he had to return to hospital. Sadly he died in the early hours of Wednesday morning, resulting in an outpouring of condolences and wishes from millions of people whose hearts he had touched. At the time of his death the total he raised was £3,774,809.15, and with Gift Aid added, the Teenage Cancer Trust will receive more than £4 million. What a truly amazing legacy to leave.

Announcing Stephen's death on his Facebook page, his mother wrote that her heart "is bursting with pride but breaking with pain for my courageous, selfless, inspirational son", and that the "ongoing support and outpouring of love for Stephen will help greatly at this difficult time, in the same way as it helped Stephen throughout his journey".

Stephen's inspiration has led to many people donating to TCT and other cancer charities and for others to undertake challenges in order to raise their own funds for charity. Many of our lives have been, or will be, touched by cancer and I'm no different, if you're a regular reader of our blogs you'll know that I lost my Mum to cancer 14 years ago when she was 63.

For 12 of the years following Mum's death I have taken part in the Race for Life, a 5k run, raising almost £6k for Cancer Research UK. I felt so helpless when Mum was ill (with a rare form of cancer that only shows itself when it's too late to treat) that I wanted to do something, anything, to help. I've only missed two years because I was expecting my son and then recovering from a c-section and even then I felt guilty for not taking part and doing my bit. My race this year is in three weeks' time and I'm going to try and run the 5K as a personal challenge, having recently taken up running.

If Stephen's courage and determination to help others has been an inspiration to you, why not think about taking on a challenge that will enable you to raise funds for your favourite charity – it doesn't have to be cancer related, anything that's close to your heart is good because it keeps you motivated – Race for Life takes place all over the UK during the summer, there are various colour runs (where you get loads of paint powder thrown at you along the way!) which sound great fun, half-marathons, marathons, walks, bake-offs, coffee mornings, you name it you can give it a try. So remember Stephen's words "... I would rather measure it (life) in terms of what I actually achieve. I'd rather measure it in terms of making a difference..." and go out there and make a difference today.



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