Another week, another ‘wish’ ticked off teenager Stephen Sutton’s bucket list.
Lifetime ambitions have been squeezed into a hugely enjoyable spring and summer as the former A level student embarked on a mission to make the world a better place and to have a blast as he does so.
After being diagnosed with incurable cancer, he sat down and wrote a wish list of things he wanted to do before he dies.
The 46-strong inventory went viral after he published it online seven months ago. Friends and complete strangers have come forward to help him realise his dreams.
A woman in Thailand paid a street artist to paint his portrait from a photograph on his site after seeing number 43 on the list. It arrived through the post.
He has learned to juggle, gone busking in Bolton, surfed the crowd in a rubber dinghy at the Slam Dunk festival at Wolverhampton Civic Hall and had a flying lesson.
The last item wasn’t on his list but flying first-class was. He says: “I’m counting that as first-class travel because it was awesome.”
He wanted to play drums in front of a huge crowd. That was ticked off after taking part in the pre-match entertainment before 90,000 football fans – and a 200 million TV audience – at the UEFA Champions League final at Wembley in May.
The gig was organised by Mike Dolbear, the man who trained and choreographed the drumming at the London Olympics.
He has ridden a Segway, appeared as an extra in daytime serial Doctors - ‘ironically, I was a patient’ – and gone on a lads’ holiday to Ibiza.
He is waiting to hear whether his name will be immortalised in the Guinness Book of World Records after organising a marathon drum roll with friends.
And a good time was had by all when he put his culinary skills to the test in his own ‘Come Dine With Ste’ evening.
Among the more obscure items on his list, he found someone with more surgical scars than he has. “She had scoliosis, curvature of the spine, it was no contest.”
Some of the activities he enjoyed so much he did them more than once.
He wanted a tattoo – he got two. One is a troll, inked in just under his left armpit with the hair serving as the troll’s distinctive mop, while the other is a pair of open scissors strategically placed in front of a long stomach scar.
The 18-year-old, who lives with his mother Jane, stepfather Tony and 21-year-old brother Chris in Burntwood, Staffordshire, has clearly retained a healthy sense of humour.
He has also been to three music festivals – V, Download and Bushwhacked – and performed two sky dives.
“When I was fixing up the sky dive, loads of others said they wanted to do it with me. I decided to cap the number at 20 because there was too much organisation involved. In the end 55 of us did it, it was crazy, and I loved it so much, I did it again.”
The Vietnamese portrait is one of three that have been painted. One is being auctioned on Monday with a starting price of £4,000. Along the way he has met a few famous names. At Wembley to see England play Brazil, he was introduced to Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard and Theo Walcott and met Phil ‘The Power’ Taylor at a darts match at the NIA. Early on in his bucket list activities, he met his comedy hero Jimmy Carr.
He has been to CERN, the home of the hadron collider, in Switzerland, and on a separate trip to visit a friend, he gave a talk at her school and attended the end-of-year prom.
As a result, the International School of Basle held a non-uniform ‘suit day’, raising £3,500.
His ambition to ‘do some public speaking in front of a huge group of people’ was realised when he spoke at a charity function at No 10 Downing Street. And with around 100 of his friends, he was able to tick off number 17 on the list when they organised a flash mob in the Bull Ring in Birmingham.
However attempts to write, record and release a charity single with his old band have so far failed.
“I wrote it and then we were too busy to record it. Then two months later we were provided with a recording studio but we’d all forgotten the song – and now the bass player has gone off to uni.”
He has yet to breathe in Xenon, which has the opposite effect on the voice to helium, and the book, too, has been put on hold. “I started jotting things down in the form of a diary but days would go by when I had no chance to write anything because I was so busy. But potentially the book would be my story.”
The first signs of Stephen’s illness appeared three years ago. His father Andy has twice beaten bowel cancer and there is a history of the disease in the family but it was still a shock to the then 15-year-old to be diagnosed with ‘an old man’s disease’.
The cancer quickly spread to his knee and then his pelvis before a growth was discovered in his groin. It was last November, as doctors were preparing to amputate his left leg, that it was discovered the disease had spread and was incurable. Time is now of the essence. On Tuesday a scan confirmed that two new lumps which had appeared on the back of one of his legs were malignant.
He has found that compiling the list has helped in unexpected ways. “it’s made me reassess my life and concentrate on what’s important.”
Still to be ticked off are the long-haul trips – going to carnival in Brazil, visiting a famous waterfall, flying to Australia, going to the 15th-century Inca site at Machu Picchu in Peru.
And he has yet to make a bungee jump in an exotic location or get music comedian Tim Minchin to write a song for him. “Ah yes, must drop him an email,” he says.
But the list is by no means self-indulgent and this week Stephen’s fundraising for the Teenage Cancer Trust, which has helped him so much, reached the fantastic milestone of £100,000.
He celebrated by upping the bar to £150,000.
The former A-star student, who was on course to become a doctor, gave up his studies at Chase Terrace Technology College to focus on his quirky list of goals.
Now he says: “I don’t really care about the bucket list anymore.
“It’s not so important. I’ve found I’m just enjoying the social aspect of the fundraising. I drove a tractor the other day, that wasn’t on the list, but it was awesome.
“I really just want to help others. The important thing is fundraising. I want to raise as much money and reach as many people as possible.” Recently he was given the accolade of Inspirational Young Person of the Year at the House of Commons in the 2013 ‘Inspire The House’ Awards run by the Kids Count charity.
This was in no small part due to the time he spends visiting schools and other groups, often two or three a week, giving motivational talks, urging youngsters to make the most of their lives.
“My talks are light-hearted, I hope there’s nothing negative about them.
“Using my own unfortunate experiences I challenge them to not take anything for granted and show them how you can make the most of your future and whatever situation they may find themselves in.
“I share what’s happened to me but it’s not a sob story.
I’m very happy, I don’t dwell on my circumstanc
es. I find the best way to help myself is to help others. But it’s got to be fun. That’s definitely my message to others – to live a little.”
The next fundraiser, Race for Stephen, a sponsored 5km fun run/walk will take place at Chasewater on October 6. For more information visit www.facebook.com/stephensstory.
Stephen’s Justgiving page is www.justgiving.com/stephen-sutton-TCTSubscribe to our Newsletter