On January 24 this year, Stephen Sutton addressed the AGM of St James’s Place at the O2 Arena. Here is an abridged transcript of his speech.
Hello everyone (there’s quite a lot of you) – my name’s Stephen, I’m 19 years old. and first of all I’m just going to tell you a bit about me. Essentially I’m just a normal kid. There’s a cute picture of me in primary school – ah, how cute. Like I say, I was a normal kid. Went to high school as normal – there’s me doing county level cross-country running for example. I also did county level athletics – there’s me setting my school’s Under-15 400m record which to this day still stands.
I also played football for numerous teams including Walsall football club at one point, and I also played cricket, rugby, basketball, all sorts. I only brought this photo because of the incredible kit we had to wear, because it’s something else, isn’t it? I was also a drummer in a local band and I was studying hard at school with the ambition of becoming a doctor – there’s a good old biology lesson. Like I say, I was a normal teenager. For example, here’s me at Reading music festival – I’m the guy in green.
I was feeling pretty content with my life. But then, dun dun dun – unfortunately, three and a half years ago, aged 15, I was diagnosed with cancer. After 6 months of crippling symptoms I underwent surgery and got a 21 cm scar down my stomach and 6 months of chemotherapy which made me sick and tired and all sorts. But then I was in remission, cancer free. Woo! However, that was short-lived and I found a lump behind my knee and my cancer had returned. I then underwent more surgery, so more cool scars – chicks dig scars so that’s alright – and 30 sessions of radiotherapy.
Again they thought I was in remission, cancer free, woo! But then again the cancer returned. At this point I then underwent more chemotherapy which made me even more sick and tired, and then I had some scan results and the scan results showed that despite all the treatment the tumours had continued to grow. So at this point they were discussing chopping off my left leg. Before they had the chance to do that however, the cancer had spread elsewhere – I’ve since had cancer in my groin, pelvis, back of my calf. And since underwent more surgery, surgery, chemotherapy, surgery, surgery, surgery, chemotherapy and the next step they’re discussing is a potential amputation again. Phew.
Briefly put, that’s my not-so-brief medical history. And kind of the main reason I’m here I guess. Because as you can see, I’ve been through a lot these last couple of years. But. More significantly, I’ve learned a lot. I know, not least, I’m still here, and I’m still smiling, and I’m still here and smiling because of the support of others, which I’ll move on to later. But generally I’ve just learned to be as positive as possible. What I’ve found is a positive attitude leads to positive outcomes. I’ve learned not to feel sorry for myself either, so none of you guys should feel sorry for me as well. Unfortunately though, it has got to a point where my disease has been described as incurable by the doctors. I do not know how long I’ve got left to live.
But. One of the reasons for that is because I haven’t asked – and you know, that’s because I don’t see the point in measuring life in terms of time any more. I would rather measure it in terms of what I actually achieve you know. I’d rather measure it in terms of making a difference, which I think is a much more valid and pragmatic measure. And I’m here to encourage you to have a similar outlook. One of the things I’ve been doing is – last year, on January 7th 2013 I made a Facebook page called “Stephen’s Story” and on it I made a bucket list of 46 things I want to achieve in the near future so that’s just a wish list. So I thought I’d go through some of these things now.
One of them was to set a world record, so there’s me in an attempt to do the world’s longest continuous group drum roll, which was over 30 hours and it was knackering. Another thing was to host a charity dinner party, which I called “Come Dine With Ste”; it went down very well. I was also trending on Twitter – yes. What this means is that I was the most talked about thing on Twitter that evening. I looked to the statistics afterwards, does anyone remember the boy band JLS? Yeah, they trended for five minutes and I trended for 30. So I conclude: I am trendier than JLS! Woo!
As well, one of the things on the list was to do some public speaking, so I started off doing this just in front my old high school, and I’ve done it in places like Downing Street and here I am now. As well, another thing on the list was to sky dive. So there’s me jumping 15,000 feet out of a plane. Good fun. Next thing on the list was to get a tattoo. Does anyone remember a kind of troll doll with the funky hair? Yeah. I’ve got one of them tattooed underneath my armpit with my armpit hair doubling up as a troll doll’s hair. You know, I thought it was pretty creative. But it’s about not taking things too seriously.
Another thing on the list was to crowd surf in a rubber dinghy, so there’s me doing that at slam dunk festival, as you do, and another thing on the list for example was to drum in front of a huge crowd. I ended up doing this in front of 90,000 people live at Wembley, and a TV audience of approximately 200 million. It was for the Uefa Champions League final last year. Pretty huge. It was Bayern Munich versus Borussia Dortmund – before kick-off I was one of 400 pre-match performers. I got to walk out on the turf at Wembley and it was an awesome experience. And I’ve had loads more awesome experiences.
Well, I’ve only got 15 minutes to talk – but these slides could go on, and on, and on. And I’ve done all this in one year. What I want you to think about is that in a way it’s a bit of a shame that I’ve had to rely on tragedy, i.e. in the form of cancer, to remind me to have a good time, to remind me to do something – you know, it shouldn’t be like that if we want to go out there and achieve stuff, we should go do that, you know. Life is for living.
I’ve got this quote up on the board. It’s quite a long one so I’ll explain it. But it involves money and a bank account so, a wealth management company, hopefully the perfect audience for it.
The quote says imagine that you had a bank account that at the beginning of every day got £86,400 put into it, but at the end of every day, that money disappeared. Now imagine – you’d take that money out wouldn’t you, you’d take it out, spend it on yourself, you’d give the money to someone else, you’d take the money out and store it. You wouldn’t let this £86,400 disappear.
Well. You are given this bank account. Unfortunately it’s not money, but it’s time. Everyone in this room is given 86,400 seconds at the beginning of the day to do whatever they want with it. And at the end of the day you’re not given that time back so when you look at it like that that’s why I think it’s important to use the time we’ve got as positively and productively as possible.
What I have found is that the best way to help yourself is to help others. Sometimes it is better to give. I’m going to end with telling you why I share my story. Why am I stood in front of all you guys here right now? Why am I not at home feeling sorry for myself? The reason is this. It’s because I see my first cancer diagnosis as a good thing, it was a huge kick up the backside, it taught me to take nothing for granted, and gave me a lot of motivation for life. Unfortunately my later diagnosis means I might not have much time left, so personally I’m stuck in this position with loads of motivation but not very much time.
Well. See people like yourselves – you guys have got all the time in the world to make a difference to yourselves, to make a difference to all this, but what you might not have is the motivation to do that. Well you can’t give me your time to make me live longer, but what I can try and do is to give you a bit of my motivation you know, to go out there and achieve something, to go out there and help others, to go out there and enjoy life. I’m going to say once more, to make a difference. And that’s it.
Watch the full speech below.
Video available at: http://youtube.com/watch?v=ZEbxN8GHQUc.