Stephen Michell was a 25-year-old dealing with brain cancer who came into the YACC family during Survivor Conference 2014 shortly before he passed away in December of that year. After the conference, Stephen felt what all YACCers feel: “Finally I’m not alone.”
Stephen made a huge impact on our community in the short time we had with him, and his legacy will live on through the Stephen Michell Fund created by his family. They have commenced a series of fundraising activities to honour his request that they help more young adults just like him.
Imagine walking into a room of unfamiliar faces. You walk timidly through the room looking for a place to sit. A young man approaches you and begins to introduce himself. Before long, you are talking about your favourite sports team and the trip overseas you just returned from. You feel welcome in the room of strangers as you have now been introduced to many of those once unfamiliar faces. Meanwhile, you have made a new friend; that friend is Stephen Michell.
Steve always had a great impact upon other people. He took the time to meet new people, made them feel welcome, and was always up for a great discussion. A positive outlook on life and sharing it with others were products of Steve’s true inner strength and the battles he fought. Giving back was part of Steve’s inner culture.
When Steve was seven years old, he was on a camp trip to a water park. After finishing his putt on the mini golf course, he fell to the ground. The staff figured he had simply tripped and fallen, however, when he could not get to his feet by himself, they realized something serious had happened. This was the beginning of Steve’s major medical battles.
Shortly thereafter, doctors determined cysts had been growing in Steve’s legs, which had caused bone depletion. His fall on the mini golf course was due to his leg breaking as he walked because his bones had become quite weak. This continued throughout Steve’s childhood. It became routine for Steve to have one leg operated upon, followed by months of recovery. Shortly after the first leg healed, Steve would be back in the operating room for the doctor to fix his other leg. By the time Steve was ready to attend university, he no longer needed frequent surgery. Steve was ecstatic about this news, and happy he would be able to connect with his peers instead of being home schooled. He would have a “normal” life.
While in university, Steve had a great time meeting new friends. As he always did, Steve introduced himself to new people, attended events, and fully partook in the university lifestyle. He was in his element and extremely happy. Following university, he moved into a condo downtown Toronto with his older brother, Matt. The two brothers had a great time hanging out and living together. Unfortunately, this only lasted a month and a half. Steve began to get rather tired and nobody was sure of the cause. After a number of blood tests, X-rays, CT scans, and MRIs, it was determined that Steve had a tumor growing on his brain stem.
Steve was always a fighter. With the news of having a brain tumor, his first instinct was to fight. He was paired up with the head of neurosurgery in Hamilton. The doctor conducted five operations on his brain in attempts to alleviate, biopsy, and remove the tumor. Steve suffered a stroke during one surgery and had to deal with the physical implications of a stroke while continuing to battle cancer. In the end, the risks of removing the tumor far outweighed the benefits.
Steve was still determined to fight and met with a Neuro-Oncology doctor. It was here that he learned about different chemical treatments and decided to commence chemotherapy. The first type of chemo Steve underwent was extremely harsh on his body to a point where he could not finish the full treatment. A second chemo drug was attempted, which also proved unhelpful. It was at this point that Steve became determined to live and do what he wanted with his remaining days.
Steve was a strong fighter from a very young age. It is incredible to see a seven-year-old tackle the adversities of multiple orthopedic surgeries and grow into a young adult obtaining a university business degree with a brain tumour growing inside his head. Steve never backed down from a fight. He took each day as it came and contributed so much to our world during his 25 year journey.
The young man shaking your hand in a room full of strangers would put a smile on anyone’s face. Whether he talked to you about your future travel plans, his love for the Toronto Maple Leafs, his philosophical views, or just about the weather, Steve would always make sure you felt included and that you were having a good time.
Let’s honour Stephen’s legacy!
Steve’s family is committed to honouring his request to help more young adults experience the power of connecting with others who “get it” through celebrating the memory of their incredible son, brother, and friend, with the Stephen Michell Fund. All donations will help Young Adult Cancer Canada (YACC) fund much needed retreats, conferences, and support activities.