Terry Fox was one of those kids that others knew would be going places. He played rugby, baseball and soccer as a child but his passion was for basketball. He was a star on the court during high school and university.
He went to Simon Fraser University with dreams of becoming a special education teacher. Those dreams were put on hold when he was diagnosed in March 1977 with osteosarcoma, a cancer that gave him a 50 percent chance at survival. The odds were better though than someone who was diagnosed just two years before when the survival rate was just 15 percent. Fox learned quickly that cancer research not only saves lives but gives patients the hope to carry on.
Terry was a fighter. Within 3 weeks after losing his leg to cancer he was walking with the help of an artificial leg. During the next 16 months of treatment the young man watched others suffer and die from cancer. He had a new purpose in life and no one, not even his own mother, was going to stand in his way. He knew that research was key but that research needed funding. He decided that he could raise $1 per Canadian if he ran across Canada.
Running was not easy, each step could bring on a wave of pain, but the hope of raising $24 million to help destroy cancer was worth that pain to him. On October 15, 1979 Terry sent the Canadian Cancer Society a letter about his plans promising to finish his run even if it meant crawling every mile.
He didn't make promises that he was going to cure cancer but he believed in miracles. With donations for a vehicle for the event and a running leg he traveled to St. John's, Newfoundland 32 years ago. Terry refused to endorse those who helped him. This mission wasn't about product placement, it was about a dream and hope. It was about survival.
Dipping his right leg into the water he filled two bottles with water from the Atlantic Ocean, one for himself as a souvenir and one to pour into the Pacific Ocean at the end of his long journey. His goal was to run 26 miles a day.
His best friend, Doug Alward, manned the van and cooked the meals for the young man. It wasn't an easy task at times. Terry could get angry when people impeded his dream and Doug was who he took it out on. Terry ran when he was in pain, he ran when he was sick. Terry ran.
As he ran Terry caught the eye of the world. People lined up to give donations for his dream.
Terry turned 22 as he ran. His health was taking a hit with each day. He ran until September 1 just outside of Thunder Bay chest pains and shortness of breath forced him to go to hospital. On September 2 he bravely announced that his run was ending. Cancer had returned, this time targeting his lungs. He had run 3,339 miles in 143 days.
Terry had raised $1.7 million by the time he got to Thunder Bay. A week later CTV held a telethon in support of Terry Fox raising $10.5 million. By that April over $23 million had been raised.
On June 28, 1981 Terry Fox died with his family at his side. Flags across Canada were lowered to half staff.
Terry Fox's dream did not die. Through his foundation more than $600 million has been raised for cancer research in his name. The number of people that have conquered cancer since 1981 because of that research grows every day.
Terry Fox once said, “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.” His belief in miracles lives on. Thank you Terry.