Story of sailor’s victory released in print

Lt(N) Stephen Tomlinson of Naval Fleet School Pacific poses with a copy of his new book 'Onward'.

Lt(N) Stephen Tomlinson of Naval Fleet School Pacific poses with a copy of his new book ‘Onward’.

Peter Mallett, Staff Writer ~

A newly released book documenting the inspirational battle of a Royal Canadian Sailor and his triumph over cancer is now available in paperback.

Onward traces the agonizing, life-and-death struggle of former HMCS Calgary Navigation Officer Lieutenant (Navy) Stephen Tomlinson endured with testicular cancer was released in June. Self-published by Island Blue Printing, the 6×9 soft cover is available by direct ordering through Lt(N) Tomlinson.

“The main idea behind Onward is that hope is stronger than fear,” said Lt(N) Tomlinson.

During his journey battling cancer, Lt(N) Tomlinson endured 350 hours of chemotherapy, 11 radiation treatments, a seizure, and five surgeries following his initial diagnosis in 2017. The experience he says produced multiple points of total despair and desperation where he had almost given up all hope of survival.

“I had come to the point of accepting where life was going south on me and I was given a one-in-ten shot at survival by my doctor,” he said in a previous interview.

Miraculously, he went on to beat the cancer after it has spread to his brain, lymph nodes, and lungs. A surgical procedure to remove a plum-sized tumour from his brain was a success but Lt(N) Tomlinson says the fight forever changed his life and the man he is. 

Now cancer free, Lt(N) Tomlinson has returned to duty with the RCN where he works as an instructor at Naval Fleet School Pacific’s Venture Division.

Lt(N) Tomlinson said that one of the things that inspired him most to write Onward was because there were so few books published on testicular cancer and those who have survived it.

“There was 16-feet of shelving dedicated to other forms of cancer, and especially breast and ovarian cancer, but the entire men’s section had only a few books and they all focused on prostate cancer,” said Lt(N) Tomlinson.

“It started out as a daily journal entry but then I realized I had a book and in my mind I could see different chapters forming as I read back my entries,” he said. “I have been told the book is very visceral, very raw and descriptive. It was originally intended to be a book for my children so they could know about their Dad after I was gone.”

Lt(N) Tomlinson says he will share his story to whoever will listen because sadly, he says, far too many other people will embark on the same journey and with a different outcome. In recent months, ahead of the COVID-19 lockdown, he made two public appearances to discuss the contents of his book. In Aug. 2019 he addressed a gathering of junior officers at fleet school about how resiliency is a hallmark in leadership and in March 2020 he addressed a crowd of approximately 250 on the same subject at a Naval Warfare Officer Trade Symposium.

But his work is not done with the publication of Onward. Lt(N) Tomlinson and one of his former shipmates aboard HMCS Calgary, Lt(N) Sean Milley, also a testicular cancer survivor,  have launched an online support network also called Onward, for CAF members and their families coping with a cancer diagnosis. The group has also enlisted another shipmate and cancer survivor WO Steven Lewington a senior firefighter aboard Calgary who recently overcame thyroid cancer. The group eventually plans to hold regular meetings in Esquimalt, but currently operates through their Facebook page of the same name which was launched in March.

For now Tomlinson is selling individual copies via email, mail, or hand delivery when possible. Onward sells for $25 and can be purchased by contacting Lt(N) Tomlinson at his personal email


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