One week ago yesterday, Alice Pyne, a 15-year old girl from Ulverston, U.K., started a blog called Alice’s Bucket List. The tagline reads:
“I’m 15 and I have terminal cancer. I’ve created a bucket list because there are so many things I still want to do in my life … some are possible, some will remain a dream. My blog is to document this precious time with my family and friends, doing the things I want to do. You only have one life … live it!”
Alice suffers from Hodgkins Lymphoma, a cancer of the lymph nodes, which appears to be spreading throughout her body. There was a time when a bone marrow transplant might have cured her, but that time has likely passed. On the right margin of her blog she’s posted her bucket list, the 17 different things she wants to do before she dies. Most of them are the sort of relatable, memorable life events that any 15-year old girl might want to experience, such as staying in a luxury suite at the national amusement park or going whale watching. The 11th wish on her list is to meet the members of Take That, her favorite band — and, thanks to her modest blog’s startlingly enthusiastic reception, several days ago she did exactly that.
In her first post, simply titled, “Hello ”, Alice writes about the results of a recent cancer scan in the resignedly colloquial tone one could imagine she intended for the select group of readers she expected. But by the end of the next day, the post had received over 2200 comments. She’d gathered over 10,000 followers. Her second post is titled “Oh Dear!” “I thought I was just doing this little blog for a few friends,” she writes. “I sat up all night, reading them as they came in from all over the planet, every single one,” and she and her mother gathered a “team of friends,” to help them respond to them. She encouraged her readers to sponsor her sister Milly in the Race for Life charity run, in Barrow, U.K., and Milly went on to raise over 30,000 pounds to fight breast cancer. Celebrities such as Johnny Depp and Katy Perry have posted to her blog in support, and the organizers of a nearby dog show accepted Alice’s golden Labrador Mabel into their contest, thereby ticking another wish off her list.
The teenage girl’s Bucket List is even influencing politics: her first wish, and perhaps the least likely, is “To make everyone sign up to be a bone marrow donor,” and on June 9, only three days after her original post, British Prime Minister David Cameron pledged to help her achieve this goal, after being so prodded by an opposition Member of Parliament.
Although it seems likely that her mother, Vicky, who is featured prominently in many posts, encouraged her daughter to begin writing the blog, there’s no way that either of them could have expected the response they received. And at the same time, in retrospect doesn’t it seem inevitable? After all, what could be more painful and fascinating than reading a young girl’s thoughts while she struggles with one of humanity’s most wrenching and difficult illnesses? What could tug harder at the heartstrings? About her so sincere and innocent wishes “To Go to Kenya (I can’t travel there now but I wanted to)”? “To swim with sharks,” or “To go to Cadbury World and eat loads of chocolate.” One would have to be callous indeed to shrug off Alice’s Bucket List.
And even further, with all the attention she’s garnered, Alice just might meet her wishes. If she does, and if her readers get to witness it, then she’ll have reached far more than a few personal goals. She’ll have become an honestly life-affirming story, an example of human selflessness even in the face of so much darkness. This should be a part of every person’s bucket list.