Every September my kids participate in the Terry Fox Run at school. It wasn’t until last November, when Terry Fox was voted the second Greatest Canadian, did I learn the story of this young man who had been very passionate in raising funds for cancer research. In commemoration of the 25th anniversary of his Marathon of Hope, CBC aired on Sunday the docudrama Terry, which starred Shawn Ashmore.
Terrance Stanley Fox was born right here in Winnipeg, Manitoba and was raised in Port Coquitlam, British Columbia. He was an athletic boy. But as an eight-grader, he was a small kid. His coach challenged him to build his endurance by running. He was competitive. He was athlete of the year when he graduated from high school.
At 18, he experienced a searing pain in his right knee. He was diagnosed with osteogenic sarcoma, a rare kind of bone cancer that tends to target active boys and young men. They cut off his leg six inches above the knee to prevent the spread of cancer. He underwent 16 months of chemotherapy. He faced it and decided not only would he beat it, he would do battle for the rest of us too. He was never in it for the glory.
On April 12, 1980, he started the Marathon of Hope in the Atlantic Ocean at St. John’s, Newfoundland. With only one leg, he ran a marathon a day. Self pity never occurred to him. He was going to run 53,000 miles from sea to sea (Atlantic Ocean to Pacific Ocean) across Canada to raise a $1 for every Canadian. But after four months of running six provinces, he started coughing. The cancer had spread to his lungs and he was forced to abandon the marathon on September 1980. Several months later, he died at the age of 22.
Terry was proclaimed a national hero. The annual Terry Fox Run is held not only in Canada, but in 50 other countries as well.
When asked, “What made you want to do this run?”
“After I was diagnosed with cancer, I stayed in the children’s ward. So I was around all these grateful kids, you know, really brave. Always talking about what they wanted to be when they grew up. And a lot of them might never get a chance. So when I got out of there, I just decided that if I was lucky enough to survive, I’d make sure I do something good. And I started running.”
Terry has a highway, a mountain and a coastguard ship named after him. Also eight schools, a stadium and a fitness trail.