Sailor, author revels in ‘childish’ birthday Bash

The Teenage Muntant Ninja Turtles-themed party raised $1,200 for the publishing, and collected donations for a local food bank and a children’s charity. Photos provided.

Peter Mallett, 
Staff Writer 


If a stranger entered Hardy’s Bar and Grill in Colwood on March 2, they would assume they’re crashing a 10-year-old’s birthday party based on the decorations, dress code, and themed cake. But that would be a wrong assumption.

The party was actually to celebrate the birthday of Lieutenant (Navy) Stephen Tomlinson, who turned 40 on Feb. 29, but only ten if you count in leap years.

Lt(N) Tomlinson, a Divisions Operations Officer of HMCS Venture, marked his 10th/40th birthday with a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles-themed party. It was a smashing success for ‘children’ of all ages, says Lt(N) Tomlinson.

“We had a great party, supported local charities and had an awesome time doing it,” he said. “People dressed up in costumes and clothes they wore decades ago. This generated a lot of fun and really brought people closer together.”

The snacks people brought to the party were not eaten but instead donated to a local food bank, and the presents went to local children’s charity Toy Mountain. It was also a chance for Lt(N) Tomlinson to celebrate finding a publisher for his book.

“It was deeply touching to see this support,” he said.

Lt(N) Stephen Tomlinson celebrated his 10th/40th birthday on Feb. 29, also marking finding a publisher for his book on his fight with cancer.

The book, titled Onward, describes Lt(N) Tomlinson’s fight for survival following his testicular cancer diagnosis in 2017. His doctor gave him no hope for survival, but Lt(N) Tomlinson was having none of that and waged a successful, against-all-odds war against cancer as it spread to his brain, lymph nodes and lungs. He underwent 350 hours of chemotherapy and 11 radiation treatments, survived a seizure and had five surgeries, including the removal of a plum-sized tumour from his brain in 2018.  The treatments eventually worked and today he is 100 per cent cancer-free. He says he wouldn’t trade the experience of his do-or-die fight for the world.

“The man I became after my fight is the person I am happiest with,” he said. “Going through such an extreme experience makes everything else less stressful, and I have learned resilience from beating cancer, which makes me feel I am better than I used to be.”

Lt(N) Tomlinson says he was also inspired to write Onward because he learned very few books were written on the pervasive disease. While testicular cancer is the most common form of cancer in Canadian men ages 15 to 29, there isn’t much supportive literature to read for those who receive a diagnosis, he notes.

After Onward’s first printing, all 350 copies were snapped up. Lt(N) Tomlinson realized that his story might have broader appeal outside Esquimalt’s military community. He is currently in contract discussions with a U.S.-based publisher to get Onward onto Amazon and the shelves of book retailers such as Chapters and Indigo.

The publishing agreement will cost him approximately $3,000 out-of-pocket, so the most important thing about his birthday party is that it also served as a fundraiser. The birthday bash raised $1,200 for the publishing cause, so Lt(N) Tomlinson says he remains ‘un-cautiously’ optimistic that he will reach his target. His wife Stephanie, their 13-year-old son Seth, and daughter Sophia, 10, also attended the birthday party.

There are other reasons for him to be downright giddy about his fortunes: Lt(N) Tomlinson was recently cleared by his Chain of Command to return to sea. In mid-March, he was elated to be aboard Orca-class Patrol Craft Training Unit vessels as he began training for his Operations Room Officer (ORO) course through Fleet School. He hopes to become an ORO aboard a deployed Canadian Navy warship.

“Throughout my fight with cancer, all I really wanted to do was get my life back, be reunited with my family as a healthy father and go back out to sea and perform the duties I have sworn to do as a sailor of the Royal Canadian Navy,” he said. “Now I am living that dream again and couldn’t be happier.”

The Tomlinson family has set up a GoFundMe account for people to support Stephen’s publishing goal at

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