Thursday, September 29, 2011

Terry's Legacy of Hope

Yesterday morning my kids got up, dressed in their favourite red and white Canada t-shirts, laced their running shoes and headed out for one of their favorite days of the school year ... Terry Fox Day!

The Terry Fox Run is one of the Fall highlights for my kids as it was for me when I was in school. I can remember setting out with my pals on a crisp September morning for a run around the neighborhood. As we trampled across the field and over lawns I remember thinking about what it must have been like for Terry to run all that way on those lonely highways. I wondered what kept him going, what made him get up and run 26 miles, a marathon, every day.

For those of you who may not know, Terry Fox was born in my hometown of Winnipeg, Manitoba. He was a natural athlete, competing in distance running and basketball throughout high school and into college, but when he was 18 years old he was diagnosed with bone cancer which resulted in the amputation of his right leg. Not even cancer and the loss of a limb could stop Terry from the thrill of competition once he recovered, though. He went on to win three national championships in wheelchair basketball and he continued to distance run with the help of a prosthetic.

It was the combination of his love for sport and his love for people that first spark the idea of a marathon to raise money for cancer research. During his time of treatment, Terry saw the toll cancer took on patients and their families and vowed to do something to improve things. After a lot of planning, training and hoping Terry embarked on a cross Canada marathon ...a Marathon of Hope.

Terry made it more than 5,000 kilometers into his trek before cancer caught up with him and he was forced to abandon his run. He had raised 1.7 million dollars and national awareness for the need for more cancer research. A week after Terry stopped running and started battling cancer (the cancer had appeared in his lungs, causing breathing distress) CTV hosted a telethon, raising over 10 million dollars in five hours. Within 8 months of the telethon the amount donated in Terry's name had grown to over 23 million dollars.

Terry ultimately lost his battle with cancer in June of 1981 but he won the hearts and awakened the compassion of the world. Terry's Marathon of Hope started a global phenomenon that has raised more that 600 million dollars for cancer research. Terry has won many awards and accolades both before his death and after but I would wager that none of those titles and honours would mean as much to him as the strides made in cancer treatment and prevention since his Marathon of Hope 30 years ago.

Because of Terry Fox and his vision for the future my kids see that hope and spunk and perseverance trump illness and adversity every time. They see that when you put action to your dreams and carry hope in your heart you can make the impossible possible. They see all of this in Terry Fox, just as I did when I was a kid.

Thanks Terry, for teaching a generation and beyond what real hope and passion looks like. Here's to you and here's to a cancer free future!

It occurs very rarely in the life of a nation that the courageous spirit of one person unites all people in the celebration of his life and in the mourning of his death ... We do not think of him as one who was defeated by misfortune but as one who inspired us with the example of the triumph of the human spirit over adversity
~Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau speaking in the House of Commons following the death of Terry Fox

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