In my writings on Canada, I've generally avoided referring to names and personalities as much as possible. The thing about Canada is that the moment you mention a name -- any name -- you begin to divide the country's citizens. We're a cranky lot that way. The one exception to this rule that I can think of is Terry Fox. There's not a soul in the land who could feel anything but pride and goodwill toward the man's memory.
- Douglas Coupland
I very nearly ended up being named Terry Fox Clarke. Or more likely, Terrence Fox Clarke. This young man ran halfway across the 2nd biggest country in the world, on only one leg, in order to help fight the horrible disease which cost him the other leg. I cannot think of any greater example of dedication and sheer presistance in human history. For his efforts, Terry Fox was chosen as the 2nd Greatest Canadian of all time by the Canadian Broadcasting Corportation. Personally, I think he should have gotten the top spot.
Terrance Stanley Fox, was born on July 28, 1958 in Winnipeg, Manitoba. His family soon moved to Port Coquitlam, British Columbia, on the coast of the Pacific Ocean near Vancouver.
A good looking young man, Terry was somewhat stocky with a mop of curly brown hair. Growing up, he was a rather athletic guy, who played basketball, rugby, soccer, and was a cross country runner for his high school. In his senior year, he co-won the Athlete of the Year award. After graduation he attended Simon Fraser University, where he started to study Kinesiology, and also made the basketball team. He was planning on becoming a high school physical education teacher.
One day, near the end of his first year of University, he felt a lot of pain in his right knee, and he couldn't stand up. He initially feared that it was a cartilage problem. It turned out to be a whole lot worse.
Terry was diagnosed with malignant osteogenic sarcoma, bone cancer. He was informed that in 4 days, they would need to amputate his leg 6 inches above his knee, and that even with that, he only had a 40% chance of living.
In the months of treatment that followed, the other cancer patients that he met, especially the children suffering from the ravages of cancer, affected him deeply.
He decided that he would have to do something to help. His high school basketball coach had brought him an article about a amputee who had run in the New York Marathon. This article gave him an idea.
After his surgery, he received a prosthetic leg, and he learned to walk with it. And then he learned to run. And he did run, a lot. He ran every day, except when his mom made him take a day off for Christmas. He spent 15 months getting training, covering a total of 5,000 kilometers during this time.
What he was training for was a run across Canada.
I'm not a dreamer, and I'm not saying this will initiate any kind of definitive answer or cure to cancer, but I believe in miracles. I have to.
- Terry Fox
He wrote a letter to the Canadian Cancer Society, telling them of his idea to run across Canada and raise money for cancer research. They were, understandably, a bit sceptical about if he could do it. Canada is after all, the 2nd largest country in the world. But, they pledged to support his efforts if he was able to drum up some initial funds to get the thing going.
He called it the Marathon of Hope. He started out by dipping his prosthetic leg into the Atlantic Ocean in St. John's, Newfoundland, on April 12, 1980. And then he ran. A lot.
His goal was a lofty one. He wanted to raise $1 from every single Canadian, which at the time was 24 million. Things were slow going at the start, but the press quickly picked up his story. People were inspired by his story of determination.
He averaged a marathon a day. I'm going to say that again. Terry Fox ran a MARATHON every DAY. 7 days a week. With one good leg. Blisters on his feet, a bleeding stump, nothing would make him slow down.
Donations began pouring in, along with letters of support. The entire country was watching this young man run along with his unique hopping gait and his steadfast determination never to give up.
Unfortunately, he eventually had to.
On September 1st, 1980, Terry had horrible pains in his chest. He had his friend Doug Alward, who had been driving behind him the entire time, to take him to the hospital. The next day there were tears in his eyes as he told the nation that he had to stop running, because the cancer that originally cost him his leg had spread to his lungs.
He pledged to continue his run when he could, but unfortunately he wasn't as lucky in this fight against cancer as he was in the previous one. Terry Fox passed away on June 28, 1981 at the age of 22. The nation was plunged into mourning.
He had stopped just outside of Thunder Bay, Ontario, having ran 5,373 kilometers in 143 days, making it 2/3rds of the way across the country.
Although he was not able to complete his run, Terry Fox did reach his goal of raising a dollar for every single Canadian resident. In addition, for his efforts he was inducted as a Companion of the Order of Canada, which is the highest honour any Canadian citizen can receive. He is the youngest person to ever become a companion of the order. He is also a member of the Order of the Dogwood, the highest honour given out by the British Columbian government, and in B.C. about 80 kilometers west of Jasper sits Mount Terry Fox. There's really not many people who get mountains named after them.
In 2005, the Royal Canadian Mint issued a series of dollar coins, featuring a picture of Terry on his epic voyage. The so called Terry Fox loonie (Called loonies because of the bird on the normal $1 coin) is the first coin in Canadian History to feature a Canadian citizen. Previously, the only identifiable human being to be minted on Canadian currency was the reigning monarch at the time, who is naturally an English, not Canadian citizen. When Terry started out, he asked that each Canadian donate one dollar to his cause. Now he's on the dollar. I find this most fitting.
In addition to this, there are a whole lot of schools, scholarships, a stamp issued by Canada Post, a Coast Guard ship and a number of statues honouring him. In 1999 he was voted as Canada's Greatest Hero. All this, however, pales in comparison to his most important legacy, the Terry Fox Run.
Every year, people get together to run, and raise money for cancer research. It happens in big cities and small towns all over the world. Over 6,600 Terry Fox Runs are organized by the Terry Fox Foundation. To date, the Terry Fox Run has raised over $340 million CND for cancer research.
In Canada, it's usually held the 2nd Sunday following Labour Day in September. The date varies from place to place in other countries.
Terry inspired people. For example, he inspired Steve Fonyo, a young man who had also lost part of his left leg to cancer, to complete the journey that Terry could not finish. Averaging about 20 km a day, it took Steve 14 months to finish the route that Terry had planned to finish in 6, but finish it he did, raising an additional $13 million for cancer research. He also inspired Rick Hansen, who was a friend of Terry's before Terry started the Marathon of Hope. Rick's goal was to ride his wheelchair around the planet. And he did, covering more than 40,000 kilometers, the circumference of the earth. All to raise money for spinal injury research.
There is no doubt in my mind that Terry would be pleased by how the foundation, headed by his little brother Darrell, has used his memory to keep the dream of beating cancer alive.
Tommy Douglas - #1 << Greatest Canadian Number #2 >> Pierre Elliott Trudeau - #3