While on a road trip in June, from Port Elgin to Sioux Lookout where our newly graduated Doctor of Medicine daughter is spending her two year, family medicine residency, I travelled through Thunder Bay and the site of the Terry Fox Memorial. The site of the memorial is a beautiful lookout over Lake Superior just east of Thunder Bay. A few minutes after arriving there, it began to rain so we took a few quick pictures, briefly noted the site and jumped back in the car. I felt I had cheated Terry and the respect he deserves however, as he was a young man who had run, mostly alone, 42 kilometers every day for 143 days through rain, snow or baking heat to raise awareness and funds for cancer research. We returned the next day to give the memorial the time and respect it deserves.
Our stop here was very emotional for me. Having helped organize our local Terry Fox Run for the past 20 plus years (I don’t know exactly) I feel an attachment to Terry and his cause. At the age of 18 Terry had to undergo an amputation of his right leg 6 inches above his knee due to osteogenic sarcoma, or bone cancer. The night before the surgery his high school basketball coach brought him a running magazine that featured an article about a one legged runner who had completed the New York marathon. That article got Terry thinking and dreaming. While in and out of the hospital for his treatments following his surgery Terry noticed the pain and suffering of other cancer patients, many of them much younger than himself. He began to want to do something to help. Terry’s plan was to run across our vast country from coast to coast, ending in his home province of British Columbia, to raise money for cancer research that would help understand, treat, and one day hopefully cure the horrible disease called cancer. Terry hoped that as Canadians, “If we all give just one dollar that will be 22 million dollars towards cancer research”. Terry was competitive, determined, always up for a challenge and he said “when I decided to do it. I knew I was going to go all out. There was no in between. Somewhere the hurting must stop and I was determined to take myself to the limit for this cause”
Coquitlam B.C. But after 5,373 kilometers through small towns and big cities alike, Terry was forced to end his run on September 1st just outside of Thunder Bay Ontario. This year is the 40th anniversary of Terry’s run. Unfortunately there will be no community run, physical events in Terry’s memory held around the world this year. The world has had to take a break from many such large gatherings. But cancer has not taken a break. The Terry fox Foundation is not taking a break. You can still go for a run on Sept. 20th, or any day of your choice to honour Terry. You can still donate to the cause or collect funds from sponsors. There are no corporate sponsors. Of all the funds raised through the foundation 80% of it goes directly to research for all types of cancer. And the research is making a difference. Two years prior to Terry’s amputation the rate of survival of his cancer was only 15%. Today he would not have had an amputation.
When Terry was forced to end his run he said “it’s got to keep going without me”, and “anything is possible if you try”. Please consider going for a walk, run, or bike ride in honour of Terry and the many other millions of Canadians and their families who have fought with or are still fighting cancer. Visit the Terry Fox Foundation website, click on the 2020 Virtual Run, register and be part of the event! 40 years ago this determined young man set out to make a difference in his country. He sure did. Not only did he bring awareness to the fight against cancer he also showed there were no limits to what an amputee could do. He helped to change people’s attitude towards the disabled. He has become a national hero. Let’s go a few kilometers on Sept 20, 2020 and raise some funds to battle cancer through the Terry Fox Foundation.