by David DeFord
Doctors informed 18-year-old Terry Fox of British Columbia
that to survive his bone cancer they must amputate his right
leg six inches above his knee. Imagine the loss. He
must have struggled to make sense of his plight as he faced
the operation that would change his life forever.
The night before surgery, his high school basketball coach
brought him a running magazine which featured an amputee
who had recently completed the New York City Marathon.
The teenager, facing the impending loss of his right leg,
began to dream of running across Canada.
During his sixteen months of post-surgery treatment and
therapy Fox witnessed terrible suffering. He saw children
with little chances for living to maturity. He saw so much
pain, suffering, and fear that at the end of his own treatment
he felt the burden of responsibility—as a survivor Terry felt
obligated to help end the suffering.
Fox started a running program two years after his operation.
He trained for fifteen months—running everyday but
Christmas—until he could run 23 miles a day.
In those years he developed a vision of raising money
for cancer research by running across Canada—east to west.
Terry wanted to call attention to the tragedy of the disease
and raise $22,000,000 ($1 per Canadian.) That’s quite a lofty
goal for a 22-year-old.
In seeking sponsorships, Fox wrote of his end of treatment,
“I could not leave knowing these faces and feelings would
still exist even though I would be set free of mine….
Somewhere, the hurting must stop… and I was determined
to take myself to the limit for those causes.”
On April 12, 1980 Terry Fox, the young cancer survivor and
amputee, began his journey in St. John’s, Newfoundland. He
called it the Marathon of Hope. He ran nearly twenty-six
miles a day with his unique step-step-hop gait.
Though he began his run across Canada with little notice,
word spread quickly of his determination and sacrifice.
Soon cheering crowds lined both sides of the road as he
entered towns. The press followed him—providing daily
updates to a nation filled with pride and wonder. And the
money began to pour in. Fund raisers sprang up throughout
Canada in support of the Marathon of Hope.
Four and a half months and 3,339 miles into his journey,
Terry was forced to stop because cancer had appeared in
his lungs. He knew for a few days that he had developed a
problem, but his grit carried him past the pain.
“I don’t feel that his is unfair,” Fox said from his hospital
bed. “That’s the thing about cancer. I’m not the only one,
it happens all the time to people. I’m not special. This just
intensifies what I did. It gives it more meaning. It’ll inspire
more people. I just wish people would realize that anything’s
possible if you try; dreams are made possible if you try.”
Fox passed away less than ten months later. His loss stunned
and saddened Canada.
That month the first annual Terry Fox Run raised $3.5
million. The CTV television network held a special telethon
48 hours after his death—they raised more than $10 million
The teenager who began with a vision of raising $22,000,000
is now responsible for over $400,000,000 raised for cancer
In June of 1999 Terry Fox was voted “Canada’s Greatest
Hero” in a nation survey.
I have run in the Terry Fox Run a few times, but I never
realized the magnitude of courage, determination and vision
of this young man.
Rather than summarize my feelings of how we can apply
Fox’s experience to our own, I thought it best to let the
young man do the honors himself.
“I just wish people would realize that anything’s possible
if you try; dreams are made possible if you try.”
“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.”
“I got satisfaction out of doing things that were difficult. It
was an incredible feeling. The pain was there, but the pain
“How many people do something they really believe in?”
Strength does not come from winning. Your struggles
develop your strengths. When you go through hardships
and decide not to surrender, that is strength.
Comfort and prosperity have never enriched the world as
much as adversity. Billy Graham
Great minds have purposes, others have wishes.
A life is not important except in the impact it has on other
lives. Jackie Robinson
Believe in something larger than yourself… Get involved in
the big ideas of your time. Barbara Bush
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