When I was 15 years old, I still wanted to be a professional footballer, thought I was in love and was doing okay in my GCSEs. At the same age, Stephen Sutton was diagnosed with cancer.
My late teens were full of laughs, careless abandon, no concept of money or responsibility and ultimately good fun.
Stephen’s was full of countless hospital visits, stays and surgery as he bravely battled bowel cancer. In a bid to focus his mind against such unbearable anguish, he drew up a bucket list of 46 ‘weird and wonderful’ things he wanted to achieve before he died – everything from raising money for the Teenage Cancer Trust to learning to juggle and meeting comedian Jimmy Carr. He ended up achieving 34 of them.
Most notable of all was that fund-raising campaign which now stands at more than £3.9 million, from an initial target of £10,000. Stephen was just 19 when he passed away earlier this month.
Aside from a quite staggering sum of money raised, Stephen has left behind the most wonderful legacy, which will give his family comfort even in their darkest days.
Closer to home is mother-of-one Amanda Coppins, from Bury. You can read her story elsewhere in this newspaper, but within days of being told she had terminal cancer, Amanda had asked to see me at West Suffolk Hospital to embark on a £5,000 fund-raising campaign for our Ward G1.
Amanda is just 44 but, like Stephen, wants to create a legacy for those she leaves behind – namely her daughter Grace. Grace is just nine years old.
Rather than get angry, an understandable emotion in the circumstances, Amanda is channelling her efforts into helping others. She hopes her fund-raising will show Grace that you can achieve great things no matter what, while she wants her own story to serve as a lesson for others.
As the hospital’s fund-raising manager, it is my job to support Amanda in all her efforts.
As I sat next to her hospital bed listening to the aims of this amazing woman, it was impossible not to be moved.
But as with Stephen, it is also impossible for me not to be inspired by how these incredible people – and so many others beside – handle such unfathomably grim news.
Stephen’s bucket list also included busking, going on a lads’ holiday and seeing a football match at Wembley – things most 19 year olds probably take for granted. And maybe that is what I will take from these acts of incredible bravery. A bucket list doesn’t have to be about abseiling in Australia or hiking the Himalayas. However grand or however small, it just has to bring about joy – to you and those around you.