Stephen Wheeler lived with lung cancer for five years before he died. The manufacturing specialist in Rochester, New York, was not known as an extrovert. On the contrary, he was considered shy. But when his family contacted the administrators of his online cancer forum and notified them of Stephen’s death, they got a surprise: 1,000 pages of printouts from his many online discussions, which the administrators prepared for them. As the family learned, Stephen in fact had a lot to say (although he said it as “Ex Rocker,” his forum username).
As Stephen’s wife and two daughters read through the transcripts, they began to realize just what an impact he’d had on other people coping with cancer. His words gave insights, advice and even inspiration. He reached people, and he touched them. He’d had over 100 followers on the forum, plus direct contact from members who sought his guidance – or simply to meet him in person.
One of his fans posted this comment on Stephen’s obituary page: “Some of your words of wisdom will stay with me forever. Sometimes we never know what a difference we make in other people’s lives. I felt moved to write this so that your family and loved ones would know how very far your influence spread, and how you had changed lives.”
Stephen’s daughters are grateful to have this legacy of printouts. They say their dad’s voice shines through. It must feel as though they’ve kept a part of him alive.
“He didn’t feel like he did as much for humanity as he might have liked,” his wife commented in a Stat Magazine article. “If he’d seen the outpouring from people after he died, it’d have bowled him over completely.” Stephen wanted to leave the world a better place. It certainly appears that he did that, in spades.