RIP Stephen Sutton – an inspirational teenager, who harnessed the very best of his generation

The 19-year-old showed the real, transformative worth of social media

 

Share

If anyone wants to knock the current crop of selfie-obsessed, snap-chatting teenagers, just point them in the direction of Stephen Sutton, the 19 year-old cancer sufferer who died in the early hours of this morning, ‘peacefully in his sleep’.

"My heart is bursting with pride but breaking with pain for my courageous, selfless, inspirational son" wrote his mother, Jane, on his Facebook page. "We all know he will never be forgotten, his spirit will live on, in all that he achieved and shared with so many."

Here was a boy who faced a death sentence of terminal cancer with more equanimity, courage and humour than many four times his age, with a lifetime already lived, could ever have conjured.

Stephen was diagnosed with bowel cancer when he was just 15, and was told his disease had become terminal in December 2012. "Originally all I ever wanted to do was study hard and make a difference to the world by becoming a doctor" he wrote, "however in light of my current circumstances I have decided to be more pragmatic with my time".

He put together a ‘bucket list’ on Facebook, a ranking of the 46 things he wanted to achieve before he died. The entries were typical of most teenage boy’s wish lists - get a tattoo, crowd surf in a rubber dinghy, go on a ‘Lads’ holiday - apart from the first: ‘Raise £10,000 for The Teenage Cancer Trust’.

Except Stephen didn’t just raise £10,000. The total currently stands at well over £3m, more than three times the amount of any previous contribution to the Trust. It’s an awe-inspiring amount, from a human being that can only really be described as exceptional.

Like any teenager, Stephen shared his life with his online friends. But the stories he shared, so bravely, were about coughing up tumours and collapsed lungs, CT scans and endless surgeries. His selfies were posted from hospital beds, oxygen mask and heart monitor in place, and always with a cheery thumbs up, even when he thought he was saying 'farewell'. He shared to raise awareness, to help others feel less alone, and to ensure that one day, no other teenager will have to draw up their own bucket list because of cancer. In doing so, he harnessed the very best of his generation, and demonstrated the real, transformative worth of social media.

In an age when we are told to ‘Look Up’ in order to have a ‘true’ connection with each other, and the powers of ‘hashtag activism’ in realising change are scoffed at, we would do well to remember the power of Stephen's story, and what one extraordinary person was able to achieve.

“I don’t see the point in measuring life in terms of time anymore." Stephen said. "I’d rather measure life in terms of making a difference."

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

h2 Recruit Ltd: Inside Sales Manager - Accountancy Software - £80,000 OTE

£50000 - £60000 per annum + £80,000 OTE: h2 Recruit Ltd: London, Reading , Sou...

h2 Recruit Ltd: Business Development Manager - BIM Software - £55,000 OTE

£40000 per annum + OTE £55,000 +Pension : h2 Recruit Ltd: An excellent opportu...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Commodities Brokers / Sales / Closers / Telesales

£10000 - £100000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Investment consultancy firm sp...

Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Operative

£7 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This high quality thread manufacturer is recr...

Day In a Page

Read Next
More vegetarian and vegan options are now available for consumers  

The stereotypes around vegetarians and vegans must stop: I've never worn tie-dye, I'm not weak, and I can't stand Morrissey

Liz Cookman
 

You wouldn't give your child untested medicine, so why would you give them an untested education?

Oliver Wright
Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

Putin’s far-right ambition

Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?
Nightclubbing with Richard Young: The story behind his latest book of celebrity photographs

24-Hour party person

Photographer Richard Young has been snapping celebrities at play for 40 years. As his latest book is released, he reveals that it wasn’t all fun and games
Michelle Obama's school dinners: America’s children have a message for the First Lady

A taste for rebellion

US children have started an online protest against Michelle Obama’s drive for healthy school meals by posting photos of their lunches
Colouring books for adults: How the French are going crazy for Crayolas

Colouring books for adults

How the French are going crazy for Crayolas
Jack Thorne's play 'Hope': What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

Playwright Jack Thorne's latest work 'Hope' poses the question to audiences
Ed Harcourt on Romeo Beckham and life as a court composer at Burberry

Call me Ed Mozart

Paloma Faith, Lana del Ray... Romeo Beckham. Ed Harcourt has proved that he can write for them all. But it took a personal crisis to turn him from indie star to writer-for-hire
10 best stocking fillers for foodies

Festive treats: 10 best stocking fillers for foodies

From boozy milk to wasabi, give the food-lover in your life some extra-special, unusual treats to wake up to on Christmas morning
Phil Hughes head injury: He had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

Phil Hughes had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

Prolific opener had world at his feet until Harmison and Flintoff bounced him
'I have an age of attraction that starts as low as four': How do you deal with a paedophile who has never committed a crime?

'I am a paedophile'

Is our approach to sex offenders helping to create more victims?
How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

Serco given Yarl’s Wood immigration contract despite ‘vast failings’
Green Party on the march in Bristol: From a lost deposit to victory

From a lost deposit to victory

Green Party on the march in Bristol
Putting the grot right into Santa's grotto

Winter blunderlands

Putting the grot into grotto
'It just came to us, why not do it naked?' London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital

'It just came to us, why not do it naked?'

London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital