I was just a child when I first heard the name – Terry Fox. In my colorful grade school classroom my teacher told the story of a young man with a wooden leg. She explained that this courageous man visited her school many years before and spoke of his dream of running across Canada. I was too young to understand the magnitude of his dream, to run such a great distance with a wooden leg. It wasn’t until many years later that I learned the story of Terry Fox was much more than just a man with a wooden leg and a dream.
Born July 28, 1958, in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Terry Stanley Fox’s life began very much like mine and other young Canadians. At an early age, he acquired a taste for athletics, participating in numerous extracurricular sports such as soccer, rugby and baseball. After being told by his basketball coach that his small five foot tall stature was better suited for long distance running , Fox took his advice in stride and began cross country running. And so his story would begin.
Years after that faithful classroom speech about Terry Fox, the full story behind his monumental feat began to take shape in my head. Reading into his past, I took note of his first unfortunate event. Returning home from a sports practice one November evening in 1976, Fox was involved in a rear end vehicle accident. Escaping with just a sore knee, the following series of events would pave the way for a moment in history that will be remembered forever.
By March of 1977, the slight knee pain intensified to a level requiring medical attention. It was here that Fox was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a form of cancer often developing in the bones of the legs. Blaming the onset of the cancer on the vehicle accident, Fox began a treatment of amputation and a series of chemotherapy sessions which left him with that wooden leg that I remembered so vividly as a child.
A short time after Fox’s amputation, he read a magazine article about the first amputee to complete the New York City Marathon. In a stroke of courage, Fox embarked on a 14 month training program, explaining to his family that he would compete in a marathon just as the man in his magazine article. In fact and unbeknownst to his family and friends, Fox had much bigger plans. He had a plan which would change the face of cancer forever.
During his period of chemotherapy treatments and hospital visits, Fox observed others suffering from the debilitating disease. With Fox’s recovery, he felt he owed debt to the medical community. He wanted to instill courage in the lives of those living with cancer.
So began the Terry Fox Marathon of Hope.
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“This slate marks the spot where one man’s dream began and a nation’s hope lives on. His run continues always in our nation’s soul.”
Almost 32 years to the day, April 12, 1980, Fox dipped his right leg in the Atlantic Ocean. To be exact, he dipped his leg into St. John’s harbour. With a monumental 8,000 km and a goal to raise $1 million in aid of cancer research, Fox began his journey. After witnessing the initial response to the campaign, he increased his monetary goal. He believed he could fundraise one dollar per Canadian equalling $24 million. Just outside Thunder Bay on September 1, 1980, the Marathon of Hope came to an unfortunate end – the cancer returned, sadly Fox passed away June 28, 1981. Terry Fox had succeeded in what many believed was impossible. With $23 million raised and millions of people touched by his story, the name Terry Fox is forever etched in Canadian history.
Memorials, cancer-related funding projects, and over $600 million have been raised in Terry Fox’s name in the fight for cancer. In a legacy that continues to grow, the city of St. John’s erected a second memorial last week, April 12 2012, in the location of the start of Fox’s Marathon of Hope.
At an age just a few years older than Terry during his marathon, I now realize that this memorial is more than just another memory cast in brass. Like the story I heard in grade school as a child, this statue will continue to tell the story of the man with a wooden leg and a dream.
“I just wish people would realize that anything’s possible if you try; dreams are made if people try.”
By: Iceberg Quest
- Monday, April 16, 2012
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