By Andrea Kaestner
The Plumfund Story: Remembering Stephen
Stephen was first diagnosed with brain cancer in 2005. He made a strong recovery after treatment and spent several precious years enjoying life with his family and friends. When brain cancer unexpectedly returned this year, Stephen demonstrated limitless courage and grace and maintained an incredibly positive attitude. Even in his final days, his strong sense of humor and giving personality continued to shine. When family and friends called or visited to comfort Stephen, roles were reversed and it was Stephen who provided comfort to those around him.
For his entire life, Stephen was a top athlete who always persevered; he was the captain of the track team and football team in high school, where he still holds a record in hurdles, he was a decathlete in the Junior Olympics, and he was recruited to Boston College for track and ended his years there on the crew team. Any sport he touched he mastered, and his passion for the outdoors made him an expert skier, snow boarder, hiker, mountain biker, and whitewater-rafting guide. He canoed the Minnesota-Canada Boundary Waters, rafted through the Grand Canyon, and enjoyed traveling to places such as Alaska. He was a talented and accomplished chef, yet he was humble and loved to make people laugh.
In March, 2015, Stephen at age 46 faced his greatest challenge yet. He had Glioblastoma Multiforme, the most common and most fatal form of brain cancer. This aggressive cancer came 6 1/2 weeks after his brain-tumor surgery in January of 2015. It came back in the form of several small stage-4 cancer tumors in the frontal left lobe of his brain. The doctors told him he had two weeks to live without any treatment, or 10 months with aggressive treatments consisting of radiation and chemo. Stephen chose treatment and overcame the many tough weeks ahead. While the chemo took a big toll on his body's strength and the radiation left him almost blind and hard of hearing, friends from near and far visited Stephen, so much that a schedule had to be put in place. Stephen's family did all they could during this time but on August 24, 2015, after a truly brave battle, Stephen passed away peacefully in his sleep. He had to tell Oona he was not going to live much longer and when he did he asked her, "Do you know whom I will miss the most? I will miss you the most." Starting the Plumfund was a very important way for me to honor my brother, his life and his family.
Plumfund In Action: Supporting Oona's Future
I wanted to provide a way for everyone and anyone who loved my brother to support him and Oona and I wanted to give Stephen the peace of mind that we will all be here for his daughter and give her what he would have given her. Stephen was an amazing father to his daughter Oona, who is just 9 years old. She is often described as his pride and joy. Stephen loved Oona more than anyone. From the day I started the Plumfund I received amazing comments and contributions and it is such an incredible feeling to receive a donation for a cause I feel so strongly about; every donation is overwhelming. As I continue to share the Plumfund site, the donations will be managed by Stephen's best friend, who has taken the role of trustee. As of today I have received more than $7,000. Each and every penny makes a difference.
Everyone that knew my brother loved him. The comments we have received during this time have shown me how deep his authentic, kind, passionate, and strong soul was. I hope that by sharing Stephen and Oona's story, we can give Oona the future Stephen wishes he could've given her. She was his joy and he was everything to her.
This post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post and Plumfund, in conjunction with Giving Tuesday. In the series, we'll feature inspirational stories of giving and receiving from users and friends of Plumfund, the free crowdfunding site. You'll find one post every weekday in November leading up to Giving Tuesday. To learn more about this campaign or start your own, visit Plumfund.com.