At 17, Justin Plunkett was too young to have a bucket list.
But with brain cancer and a negative prognosis, the Victoria teen began listing his wishes: Visit Las Vegas, get a driver’s licence, meet rock band Kiss.
A coma prevented Justin from meeting band members when they played in town Friday night.
But his friends believe a tweet from frontman Gene Simmons, reading “Our prayers are with you,” made all the difference to the avid music fan.
Justin died Saturday morning, surrounded by loved ones.
The teen was diagnosed with cancer on Christmas Eve, 2010. After 30 sessions of radiation treatment and nine months of chemotherapy, doctors announced that he was cancer-free.
But on Oct. 29, 2012, an MRI showed the cancer had returned and spread. Justin was airlifted to B.C. Children’s Hospital in Vancouver. The prognosis was not good, and he began thinking about how he would like to spend his time.
The community rallied around Justin and his family — mother Colleen Plunkett, stepfather Joe Peterson, twin sister Jocelynn and seven-year-old sister Olivia — organizing bottle drives and other fundraisers.
The tough days were extremely tough.
“It’s been over 21Ú2 years of straight struggle, day to day, every single day,” Peterson said. “Sometimes he would go for weeks of throwing up multiple times a day.”
But on the good days, Justin managed to shear a sheep, get tattoos, zipline, catch a shark, hold a boa constrictor, jet ski and drive an ATV. He flew to Cancun, where he swam with dolphins, surfed on a wave machine and sang karaoke with Lucas — his best friend since birth — in front of a live crowd.
“He was just on another level, he had a heart of a lion,” Peterson said. “For him to go through what he went through and still wake up every morning with a smile on his face — like, ‘What’s next, OK, I’m going to take on the world’ — it was incredible.”
Aunt Kelly Plunkett said although Justin was sleeping for more than 20 hours a day at the end of June, he insisted on undertaking the annual family trip to Parksville.
“He didn’t have a lot of energy at all, but he sat and sang songs by the fire and roasted marshmallows,” she said. “Justin loved life — every time somebody told him that he couldn’t do something, he proved them wrong.”
Peterson believes Justin drew much of his strength from his girlfriend, Sam, and his mother, who spent the past month sleeping next to her child.
Justin had a severe seizure June 30. He was transported to Victoria General Hospital and slipped into a coma.
“This morning at 4:40 a.m., Justin earned his wings,” Colleen posted Saturday. “It was very peaceful and he was surrounded by love. Justin will be forever young. Love you my lil man.”
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