Beating the Odds: Teenage Cancer Patient Completes Her Bucket List

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Swim with sharks. Meet a famous pop band. Stay in a caravan. These are all rather standard items to scribble on one’s bucket list – though there’s an inherent problem with most lists: they often languish, unachieved. But a British 16-year-old, facing a terminal cancer diagnosis, set out to tackle her list. And just a year after its creation, she’s managed to strike through all 17 items.

Alice Pyne, from Ulverston in northwest England, created her bucket list after learning more than four years ago that she had terminal Hodgkin’s lymphoma. She posted them all on her blog, which she started in the summer of 2011, to help her keep track of her progress. Just under her blog’s main banner, she alludes to her skepticism in completing all the items on her list: “Some are possible, some will remain a dream.”

It’s time for Pyne to update that text, because in July, Pyne ticked off the final adventure on her list: whale watching in Canada. Though whale watching had long been one of her most important to-dos, Pyne had almost given up hope of ever being able to go. “I just couldn’t believe that I was actually there,” she wrote. “I’m sure that the whales heard that I was about, cos they came out and I know that we’ll all remember it forever.”

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Just 12 months earlier, she launched the blog to some unexpected fanfare. She quickly became something of an Internet sensation – the hashtag #alicebucketlist began trending on Twitter, attracting the attention of celebrities from David Cameron, Katy Perry, Justin Bieber, and Johnny Depp, according to the Huffington Post. The hashtag even became the top trending term one morning in June, The Guardian reported.

Through her Internet stardom, Pyne has managed to get 40,000 people to join the Bone Marrow Register, according to ITV News. But Pyne, cognizant of her terminal illness, hopes the trend will continue far into the future. “It’s really good that I’m getting so many people to join the register, but what about when I’m not here?” she wrote in 2011. “I don’t want it all to stop.” Pyne then explained her next mission: to have large card companies such as Hallmark, Camden, and Phoenix become involved in spreading the word as well.

Pyne’s blog continues to attract volumes of traffic, drawing over four million readers with dozens of encouraging comments written on each post. But perhaps the greatest inspiration comes from the young Pyne herself. Near the top of her blog, she writes: “You only have one life…live it!”

Tara Thean is a contributor at TIME. Find her on Twitter at @tarathean. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.

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