Belfast Telegraph

Home News UK

Stephen gave MBE award 'thumbs up'

Teenage cancer victim Stephen Sutton is not alive to receive his MBE, but it definitely got his famous "thumbs up", his mother has said.

The 19-year-old accepted the proposed award but died before he could receive it.

The MBE, announced today, has been backdated to the date of his death on May 14. He was mourned by thousands and it sparked a boost in donations to the Teenage Cancer Trust.

Stephen, who was diagnosed with bowel cancer aged 15, became a household name as he approached his disease with good humour and stoicism.

The teenager drew up a 46-item bucket list, including the aim of raising £10,000 for the Teenage Cancer Trust, which is dedicated to improving the quality of life and chances of survival for young cancer patients, as well as providing specialist units in NHS hospitals.

By the time of his death, he had raised millions for the charity, inspiring people to donate via his JustGiving web page and his blog, Stephen's Story.

During his 44-month fight against metastatic bowel cancer, Stephen also managed to go skydiving and play the drums at a Wembley cup final.

The teenager, from Burntwood, Staffordshire, won the hearts of thousands of supporters - including Prime Minister David Cameron and comedian Jason Manford - and made his trademark "thumbs up" sign a symbol of his positive attitude.

In a YouTube video, he spoke of how he did not want "to be remembered as someone who didn't fulfil their potential" and despite not being able to become a doctor, he had stuck to his "core purpose" of helping others.

Before his death, he also said: "I don't see the point in measuring life in terms of time any more. I'd rather measure life in terms of making a difference."

Stephen died three days after being re-admitted to hospital with breathing difficulties caused by a re-growth of his tumours.

Announcing his death via his Facebook page, his mother Jane said her heart was "bursting with pride but breaking with pain" after he lost his three-and-a-half year fight against the disease.

His death sparked an outpouring of grief, with Mr Cameron saying a "very, very bright light" had gone out.

The Prime Minister said: "I can hardly think of anyone I've met with such a zest for life, and such a belief that you can get things done, and who wanted to live every minute."

In an emotional farewell to the teenager, more than 10,000 people joined a vigil for him, turning out to file past his white coffin as it lay in a place of honour inside Lichfield Cathedral.

After his funeral, where mourners included Manford, a crowd of more than 1,000 people clapped for a final time, while balloons were released and a steady tattoo was performed by the Pandemonium Drummers, who performed for the London 2012 Olympic Games.

Manford, who helped to champion Stephen's fundraising, described the teenager as "the most inspiring person I've ever met".

He said: "Some of Stephen's words will stay with me and others forever and they are words to live by - 'life isn't measured in time, it's measured in achievements'.

Jane today described how he had received a letter from the Cabinet Office shortly before his death asking if he would accept an MBE in recognition of his fundraising and services to the Teenage Cancer Trust.

She said although her son always said he did not do his charity work for recognition, he had admitted that being nominated for the honour was "awesome".

"He thought it was an incredible honour to have been nominated and it definitely got the 'thumbs up'," she said.

"The MBE is a wonderful recognition of his amazing charity work and dedication to Teenage Cancer Trust whilst battling terminal cancer himself.

"It will help promote the continuing legacy of 'Stephen's Story', which has created a wave of awareness, engagement and giving that will potentially transform what Teenage Cancer Trust can achieve.

"Although Stephen continually told all of us that he didn't do his charity work for recognition, even he acknowledged that to be appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire was 'AWESOME'."

Siobhan Dunn, chief executive of the Teenage Cancer Trust, said "exceptional young man" Stephen had created the single biggest fundraising event in the Trust's history.

She said: "His achievements are outstanding and it is wonderful to see him honoured in this way. Stephen didn't measure life in time, preferring instead to measure it by the difference someone makes.

"He has made an enormous difference to Teenage Cancer Trust and the seven young people diagnosed with cancer every day who need our help."


From Belfast Telegraph