By Hannah Griffiths
Like most teenagers Stephen has enjoyed an active lifestyle, participating in a range of sports including county level cross country, Sunday league football, cricket, basketball and rugby as well as fulfilling his musical talents playing in a band and studying hard with the ambition of becoming a doctor. However, at the age of 15 and after six months of crippling misdiagnosed symptoms, Stephen’s life changed completely as he was diagnosed with bowel cancer.
He immediately underwent surgery and chemotherapy making Stephen extremely tired and sick but the doctors believed he was in remission. Even from this early diagnosis Stephen was adamant he would battle his disease with positivity.
‘A week after my first operation I was released from hospital in a wheelchair and told to take things easy as I would be coming back in soon for a check-up, but there was a fancy dress party I really wanted to go to and I was determined at even that stage I wasn’t going to let my illness get in the way of my life’, says Stephen.
‘The 21cm scar down my stomach meant that I was unable to walk and after losing over 2 stone I looked incredibly ill and pale, so I made the decision to go as a granny in a wheelchair. By the end of the night I was being pushed around in my wheelchair at the front of a conga line’.
Stephen’s positive outlook took a hit when he found a lump in his knee and after several biopsies it was confirmed that Stephen’s cancer had returned. After further surgery and 30 sessions of radiotherapy Stephen was once again thought to be in remission. Shortly afterwards it was discovered that the tumour in Stephen’s leg had returned, however the prescribed chemotherapy to shrink the tumour failed leaving doctors to discuss amputating Stephen’s left leg.
Before the operation took place it was discovered that the cancer had grown progressively and had spread elsewhere in Stephen’s body rendering the operation pointless and his cancer incurable. Despite the devastating outcome for his health, Stephen has continually remained positive; striving to achieve his dreams, no matter the outcome on his life.
‘The last couple of years have been tough, I’ve been put through a lot but more importantly I’ve learnt a lot. After being diagnosed as incurable, I realised that due to the uncertainty of my ongoing life becoming a doctor wasn’t the best way to help people in the time I had left. Instead I decided to draw up a bucket list of 46 items that I wanted to achieve whilst helping others. I tried to keep it varied and fun, ranging from charity fundraisers to skydives, meeting Jimmy Carr and even getting my first tattoo along with many other things. So far this year alone I’ve managed to raise £100,000 for Teenage Cancer Trust’.
‘The reason that I share my story is because I actually see my first cancer diagnosis as a blessing. It taught me never to take anything for granted and motivated me to make the most of the future I have left. Since being told my cancer is incurable I’m stuck in a position where I have so much motivation and passion for life but not enough time to make the most it.
‘Instead I frequently look around and see others who have the time but don’t share the passion for life that I have. Unfortunately they can’t give me the time they have and help me to live longer but what I can do is to try and make a difference and give them some of my motivation for life. That’s why I share my story to show people that life is wonderful’.
To read more about Stephen’s achievements and to help support his fundraising, visit his Facebook page for more details.