Terry Fox’s Legacy of Hope lives on

On April 12, 1980, Terry Fox dipped his artificial leg into the Atlantic Ocean and began his Marathon of Hope from St. John’s, Newfoundland.

Two years later, pop star Michael Jackson released Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’, which Terry Fox definitely had. The lyrics of the chorus say it all. Terry ran—through rain, snow, and wind, up and down hills, and around obstacles—and he did it all with humour and hope even though his pain was “thunder.”

I Said You Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’
You Got To Be Startin’ Somethin’
I Said You Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’
You Got To Be Startin’ Somethin’
It’s Too High To Get Over (Yeah, Yeah)
Too Low To Get Under (Yeah, Yeah)
You’re Stuck In The Middle (Yeah, Yeah)
And The Pain Is Thunder (Yeah, Yeah)

(Video of “Wanna Be Startin’ Something” done by the cast of “Glee.” I like this version better than the videos I found of MJ.)

I’ve driven across Canada, and while you may not always be aware of them, there are some mighty hills in Newfoundland, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Quebec and Ontario, especially Northern Ontario. I cannot imagine tackling those on foot!

terry fox 2

To say that Terry was an inspiration is a huge understatement. A telethon held in his honour just after his death raised $10.5 million. The annual Terry Fox Run, started in September 1981, and other events held in Terry’s honour worldwide, have raised more than $700 million to continue fighting cancer. The cancer that originally befell Terry is now curable, according to researchers, and that’s thanks to funds received from the Terry Fox Foundation.

terry fox 3

There were many tears when Terry died, but as you’ll see in this clip, he left people with a sense of pride and hope too. Flags on federal and provincial government buildings flew at half-mast the week he died, an honour usually reserved for politicians and other dignitaries. Terry was a dignitary—having become the youngest person to be named to the Order of Canada. A stamp was also issued in his honour.

Terry’s plan was to run across Canada at a pace of approximately 50 km—yes, 50 km a day! and reach British Columbia, where he would dip his leg into the Pacific Ocean, in about four or five months. There were many days that he ran at least 42 km—that’s a full marathon! As we know, he had to give up his dream after 143 days running 5, 373 kilometres. While he may not have made it to BC, that distance is pretty close to the breadth of the country. I know because my husband cycled from Victoria, BC to Victoria, PEI, a distance of almost 5,500 km in 2005.

So yes, Terry, you did run across Canada!

In September 1980 Terry returned home to receive treatment for the cancer that had now invaded his lungs. That continued for the next nine months, but he couldn’t outrun the cancer anymore. Terry Fox died on June 28, 1981, one month before his 23rd birthday.

Terry’s initial goal when he started was to raise $10,000 for cancer research. When he reached Port Aux Basques, Newfoundland, he found out they’d raised his $10,000—one dollar for each citizen in town. Terry set his sights higher–$24.17 million—one dollar for every Canadian citizen—matching the population of the country at the time.

Now there’s a new goal: to raise $35 million for cancer research with the Terry Fox events—once again matching the country’s population.

While April is “designated” as the month to usually raise funds for cancer research, September is also an important time. The 35th Anniversary of the Terry Fox Run is set for September 20. There will be events across the country around that same time. Let’s remember Terry, and his family—and their courage.

This is what Terry said shortly before he died,

“Maybe now instead of being afraid and saying ‘Look how hard Terry tried and he still got cancer,’ instead people will say ‘look at the effort he put in and he died of cancer — we’re really going to have to try hard in order to beat it, harder than we ever have before.'”

Terry definitely started something. He would have been the first to run across Canada using an artificial leg. He inspired Steve Fonyo and Rick Hansen on their journeys. Terry’s shy smile, humbleness, and hop-along gait endeared him to everyone he met, and everyone who watched him.

Let’s start planning now to make the 35th anniversary event the biggest, and best one ever. Terry got the Marathon of Hope started, and he’s left a Legacy of Hope. It’s up to us to keep it going.

He deserves no less.

terry foxAll images courtesy of Terry Fox Foundation images page.





8 thoughts on “Terry Fox’s Legacy of Hope lives on

  1. I can’t believe it’s been that long. Thanks for the post Christine. It inspired me to write my own Terry story — back n the days when I was a reporter for CBC TV news and I proposed a story on a then unknown young man with one leg, training, running around the track at Simon Fraser University. His goal: to run in the Prince George Marathon. Which he did. Unnoticed. I asked the CBC Sports dept. to get some footage because I was doing a short feature on him. They didn’t. When I revisited Terry the next year to see what is plans were a year later he told me he was going to run across Canada for cancer. He had told no one but the people helping him organize. I proposed a follow up story. The reaction at CBC was dismaying to say the least. That’s part of my story. I’ll put it up on FB, and yes, I should probably get my blog moving as well and what better way than to pay tribute to Terry — and in a way, also let folks realize how far news has come in the last 35 years. Thanks for reminding us all Christine.

    1. Thank you, Dee, for your comments, and for your story. Your full story is wonderful and I hope you do get it out there, not only on Facebook, but on your blog too.
      By telling our stories, whether we’d actually met Terry or not–lucky you–we keep his legacy alive.

  2. it’s hard to believe that it’s been that long. He certainly did leave quite a legacy. I remember trying to watch the coverage of his run, and got too emotional to continue.

    Thanks for reminding us of the details. Good post.

    1. Thanks for joining this conversation, Judy. I also got quite emotional watching the archive footage on the CBC website about Terry’s run. He was such a courageous, and caring young man. He kept saying, “It’s not about me.” Yet, we want and need to remember him.

    1. I hope a lot of people get involved with the Terry Fox events in their area, Doreen. Here, people can do a 5k or a 10k walk, run, cycle, rollerblade, etc. We’re starting a Nordic Walking Group (using walking poles–not that you have to be from a Nordic country :}) so I’m hoping the group will want to go together for the event.

  3. I wonder if Terry had any idea how profound his legacy would be. Thirty-five years and his name is still very recognizable. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if cancer can be beaten and we all forget about this story?

    1. It will be wonderful when the day has come that cancer has been beaten, Lillie, but let’s not ever forget Terry Fox and his story. It will be nice when we can just remember the good things he did, and not his cancer.

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