Terry Fox, born in Winnipeg in 1958 was a college athlete at Simon Frazer University in Vancouver when he lost his right leg to Cancer. A crushing blow for any 18 year old, but for one who loved all manner of sports, it was devastating.
With the help of an artificial leg, Terry Fox was walking again, three weeks after the amputation. Doctors were impressed with his positive outlook, and said that it contributed to his rapid recovery. During sixteen months of chemotherapy at the British Columbia Cancer Control Agency, Terry watched fellow cancer patients suffer and die from the disease. He ended his treatment with a goal: he wanted to live his life as an example to others.
In 1980, this determination led him to embark on a cross-Canada run to raise money and awareness for cancer research. He called the mammoth undertaking, “The Marathon of Hope,” and aimed to raise $24,000,000, one dollar for every Canadian.
Starting in St. John’s Newfoundland, Terry ran 5,373 kilometers (3,339 mi). As he headed west, the crowds grew and by the time he reached the province of Ontario, he had become a national celebrity. Terry Fox was the youngest person ever named a Companion of the Order of Canada. He also was awarded the Lou Marsh award for the nation’s top sportsman, and was named Canadian Newsmaker of the Year in 1980 and 1981. But the spread of his cancer forced him to end his run after 143 days and ultimately, he succumbed to the disease on June 28, 1981.
Nonetheless, his incredible effort left a worldwide legacy. The annual Terry Fox Run, first held in 1981, has grown to involve millions of participants in over 60 countries and is now the world’s largest one-day fundraiser for cancer research; over 500 million has been raised in his name.
Yesterday, I relearned an old lesson: When melancholy hits, look around… you’ll soon find someone or something to make you feel better.