Somewhere this morning, I came across an article about Terry Fox. That brought back some memories. When I was young and growing up in Canada, Terry Fox’s legacy and heroics in facing cancer were very much alive in the minds of Canadians. Looking back, I would suppose he was probably the first endurance athlete I ever thought of as a ‘hero,’ and his legacy in raising funding for cancer dated back almost two decades before the Lance Armstrong Foundation.
In case you don’t know the story, here’s a synopsis: this healthy athletic teenager living in British Columbia had his right leg amputated almost clear up to his hip when they found cancer in his knee. It was a couple of years later, but he decided he’d do something about his situation. He resolved to run from one end of Canada to the other. He flew to the Atlantic and started by dipping his foot in the ocean.
This was back before people really did this sort of thing to raise money. Terry’s ambition was to run a marathon every single day and to have every Canadian donate one dollar toward cancer research. "There are 25 million people living in Canada," he said, "and all 25 million can get cancer."
I remember reading a children’s book about him. It was written from the perspective of his shoes—anthropomorphized, of course. When the cancer showed up in Terry’s lungs, I remember the cancer being depicted as some purple fuzzy cartoony things with sinister eyes. I think it was the first I’d heard of cancer in my life.
From what I remember, Terry suffered a lot on the highway through rainstorms, pain and howling wind. He even kept running when two large tumors began forming in his lungs. He’d run more than 3,300 miles when he pulled out at the urging of family members and doctors. But the heart-wrenching part came when complications from his cancer claimed his life a year later.
Now I was only two when he died, but I’d heard so much about the legend of Terry Fox over the years that I doubt I’ll ever forget it or forget to tell my children about it—even now that I live in the United States.