Sunday, September 16, 2012

Remembering a True Superhero

Today in parks, school grounds and community spaces around the world people of all walks of life took part in the annual Terry Fox Run for cancer research. For thirty-two years this charity event has been a staple of early autumns in Canada and continues to grow each year with one goal: to raise money for cancer research. 
Terry Fox runs through Toronto in July 1982.
Terry Fox was a superhero in the truest sense of the word. Born in Winnipeg, Manitoba in July 1958, Terry grew up in Port Coquitlam, British Columbia and was from an early age a gifted athlete. But in 1977 at aged 18 he was diagnosed with a rare form of bone cancer called osteosarcoma and was forced to undergo chemotherapy to save his life. What's worse, he also needed to have his right leg amputated. Never one to quit, Terry was reading an article about an amputee runner of the New York City Marathon when he got an idea: he would run across Canada to raise money for cancer research. 

After months of training, it was on a cold April day in 1980 when Terry dipped his prosthetic leg into the Atlantic Ocean at St. John's and started to run the cold roads of Newfoundland. His plan was to run a marathon a day -- 42 kilometres (26 miles) -- until he had crossed the second largest country in the world. Initially discouraged, he soon arrived in Port aux Basques on the south shore of that rocky province where he received a hero's welcome and the equivalent of a dollar from everyone in the town. It was there that Terry and his small team set about their new goal: one dollar from every Canadian. 
Terry on University Avenue in Toronto
Sadly, Terry did not reach his goal. After 143 days and 5,373 kilometres (3,339 miles) he was forced to abandon his run on the north shore of Lake Superior outside of the city of Thunder Bay, Ontario. The cancer, believed to have been stopped, had metastasised in his lungs and he was forced to urgently seek more chemotherapy to stop it.  Rushed back to his hospital in British Columbia, Terry started his new treatments. While at the hospital he was given the Order of Canada, Canada's highest civilian honour and named Canadian sportsman of the year. On June 28, 1981 at the age of 22 years Terry Fox died. 

Terry Fox didn't have lasers for eyes or claws in his hands. He was simply a young man who wanted to make a difference in the world. He experienced the terrible event of being diagnosed with cancer and decided to make good of that experience. To date the Terry Fox Foundation says that over $600 million dollars have been raised at Terry Fox Runs around the world. That, in my books, is the act of a true superhero and as a cancer survivor myself I will always be grateful for both the actions of Terry Fox and the thousands of people each year who carry on with his work. Terry Fox: a true SUPERHERO.

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