THE memory of an inspirational teenager cancer victim “will never be forgotten” because of his example in facing the terminal disease, a charity boss has said.
A two-day vigil began at Lichfield Cathedral, Staffordshire, yesterday for Stephen Sutton who succumbed to multiple tumours on 14 May.
His inspiration has raised £4 million for the Teenage Cancer Trust, with the charity’s chief executive Siobhan Dunn saying it was difficult to overstate the importance of the work he did raising awareness about the disease in young people.
Well-wishers will be able to pay their respects and say goodbye to the 19-year-old, whose dignity and zest for life in the face of terminal cancer attracted attention across the world.
Ms Dunn said: “I think what’s really important is Stephen will never be forgotten because he, like every young person who is diagnosed with cancer, lives on in the work that we do and they’re a very important part of our work. Stephen’s an extraordinary young man who has had the most incredible impact on the lives of so many young people with cancer.” She added: “It’s really important there’s a public celebration of Stephen’s life and I think that’s exactly what he would have wanted.
“He was looking for us to put the fun into his funeral so hopefully we’re going to do that.”
Inside the cathedral, Stephen’s smiling face can be seen on numerous pictures and a team of volunteers from the flowers guild have dressed the stone dais where his coffin will lie in bright yellow and white blooms.
Ms Dunn added: “It’s just a wonderful opportunity and the family are delighted to be able to give people the opportunity of coming together just to celebrate his life.”
Stephen’s mother, Jane Sutton, earlier called for people not to wear black to the vigil, and to “do something to make others happy”.
The young man, who was diagnosed with bowel cancer at the age of 15, spent the rest of his short life raising awareness about the disease in young people and had embarked on a bucket list.
Before his death, he said: “I don’t see the point in measuring life in terms of time anymore.
“I’d rather measure life in terms of making a difference.”
Ms Dunn said Stephen’s example in having a positive outlook had been as important as the money he had raised.
“Often, like Stephen, young people deal with their cancer illness with great humour and it’s very important to have a positive mental attitude,” she said.
“It’s something Teenage Cancer Trust really focuses on in terms of the services and support that we provide.
She added Stephen’s family had told her they were overwhelmed by the public’s “outpouring of love and goodwill”.
At 11am today, there is a Thumbs Up For Stephen event which is being publicised on social media. At 3:45pm, Stephen’s coffin will be carried from the cathedral for a private funeral.