Cancer Awareness and the Legacy of Terry Fox

Cancer Awareness and the Legacy of Terry Fox

Terry Fox, who grew up in Port Coquitlam, BC, was diagnosed with bone cancer in his right leg in 1977 and had it amputated 15 cm (6 inches) above the knee. He was only 18 years old. While in the hospital, Terry was so overcome by the suffering of other cancer patients that he decided to run across Canada to raise money for cancer research, which he called his Marathon of Hope. He wasn’t doing the run to become famous; he wanted to fund a cure for all cancers.

After 14 months of training, Terry set out and ran a full marathon (42 km or 26 miles) every single day through rain, wind, snow and heat for 143 days, but was forced to stop outside of Thunder Bay in September 1980 after learning that cancer had spread to his lungs. 

Trevor Wagenaar, who manages the Cancer Clinic at the Nanaimo Regional General Hospital, recalls when Darryl Sittler gave his 1980 NHL All-Star jersey to Terry Fox when Terry was passing through Toronto.

“I was a high school student in Alberta and Terry’s Marathon of Hope was all over the news,” Wagenaar said. “His determination to do the impossible, to run across Canada with an artificial leg in order to raise funds and awareness about cancer was inspirational. When we heard that Terry had died, our school lowered its flags to half-mast. Everyone was devastated.” 

Although Terry wasn’t able to continue his Marathon of Hope, his determination and hope for a future without cancer has continued as millions of Canadians participate in the Terry Fox Run every September in an effort to achieve Terry’s vision - a world without cancer.

Cancer survivor Laura Harrison believes in Terry’s vision, that together we can support one another and share in his magnificent optimism.

“Terry’s dream is very much alive and together we can continue his beautiful legacy,” she said. ”As a cancer survivor, I am living proof that Terry’s dream is the reality he hoped to create and although there’s still much work to be done, it is so much more hopeful thanks to the amazing Terry Fox.”

September is awareness month for blood cancer, childhood cancer, ovarian cancer and prostate cancer, and with one in two Canadians expected to battle some form of cancer in their lifetime, the need for cancer research continues to this day. 

“Cancer impacts almost every one of us, either directly or indirectly,” said Wagenaar, who also lost his mother to cancer. “Terry demonstrated that the impossible is possible, and that cancer is worth fighting.”

Although the pandemic has affected many community-organized runs, you can still participate in the Terry Fox Run on Sunday, September 19 by running it in your own way; by walking, riding or running, and by making a donation to the Terry Fox Foundation or a cancer agency of your choice.