BY GEORGE MARATOS
In March 1977, a young 18-year-old from Port Coquitlam, B.C. had his right leg amputated six inches above the knee after being diagnosed with a malignant osteoscarcoma.
During his chemotherapy treatments, Terry Fox experienced the harsh realities of cancer: endless vomiting, crying families, people of all ages stripped of hope, liveliness and a future.
A competitive and determined athlete all of his life, Fox decided that rather than focus on the negatives of his situation, he would instead do something positive.
The night before the operation to remove his leg, a high school teacher of Fox’s showed him an article about an above-the-knee amputee who had run in the New York Marathon.
Not apparent at the time, it is believed that is when the seed was planted for his idea to run across Canada.
A little over three years later, April 12, 1980, in St. John’s, Newfoundland, Terry Fox went to the rocky shore of the Atlantic, dipped his prosthetic leg into the ocean and officially started the Marathon of Hope.
His goal was to cross Canada’s 5,300 miles by running roughly two hundred marathons in a row with no rest days in between … all on one real and prosthetic leg.
In the course of the next 142 days, he would run 3,339 miles while battling rain, sleet, dogs, 18-wheelers and many skeptics. Yet still he pursued his goal of raising money and awareness about cancer.
And despite little fanfare in the beginning, Fox’s courageous effort was working as over $100,000 was raised in one day in Toronto.
Sadly, on Sept. 1, 12 miles east of Thunder Bay, the Marathon of Hope came to an abrupt halt as the cancer spread to Fox’s lungs.
An entire nation was stunned and saddened.
Terry passed away on June 28, 1981 at age 22.
The heroic Canadian was gone, but his legacy was just beginning.
After the run’s end, while in a hospital in Port Coquitlam, still the optimist, Fox began thinking of ways to keep the Marathon of Hope alive and it was then the Terry Fox Run was born, an annual run held to honour his heroic effort and keep the fundraising push growing.
In 1981, the first Terry Fox Run was held and, to date, more than $400 million has been raised worldwide in his name.
On Sept. 14, Yukoners are invited to Rotary Peace Park at noon to participate in the Whitehorse Terry Fox Run.
There will be live music, guest speakers and refreshments, but it is not a race, there are no awards, it is simply to raise money and awareness and keep Terry Fox’s hope and spirit alive.
You don’t have to run either, you can walk, bike, rollerblade, even skateboard.
The most important aspect of the Terry Fox Run is that it is not competitive, just people joining together to raise money for cancer research.
Prior to beginning his Marathon of Hope, Terry Fox wrote a letter requesting support for his run in which he said, “The running I can do, even if I have to crawl every last mile.
“We need your help. The people in cancer clinics all over the world need people who believe in miracles.
“I am not a dreamer, and I am not saying that this will initiate any kind of definitive answer or cure to cancer. But I believe in miracles. I have to.”
The Terry Fox Run begins at noon Sunday, Sept. 14 at Rotary Peace Park.
For more information, to donate or to volunteer call 334-6397.