It was 41 years ago to the day on Monday that Terry Fox dipped his artificial leg into the Atlantic Ocean at Cape Spear in St. John’s, Nfld., to start his Marathon of Hope in support of cancer research.
Fox, who lost part of his leg to osteosarcoma at age 18, wasn’t sure how long the cross-country trek would take, his older brother says.
But the young athlete from Port Coquitlam, B.C., knew he had to keep putting one foot in front of the other in order to reach the finish line.
“Terry believed in taking things one step at a time, one day at a time,” said Fred Fox, manager of supporter relations at the Terry Fox Foundation. “And that’s what we’ve all had to do in these troubling times.”
Terry Fox ran close to a marathon a day for 143 days before cancer in his lungs cut his journey short in Thunder Bay, Ont., on Sept. 1, 1980. He died in June the following year, a month shy of his 23rd birthday.
In the decades since his death, Canadians have carried on the activist’s quest through the annual Terry Fox Run to help raise more than $850 million for cancer research, according to the foundation that bears his name.
But Fred Fox said his brother’s legacy of resilience has taken on renewed resonance as the COVID-19 crisis rages on with no end in sight.
“This global pandemic isn’t a sprint, it’s a marathon. And that’s exactly what Terry did every day,” he said.
“We don’t know how much longer we’re going to be dealing with this COVID-19 pandemic… (But like Terry), we all have to be determined.”
According to the Terry Fox Foundation, more than 650 communities across Canada come together each fall for fundraising runs in support of cancer research.
But last September, organizers had to pivot to a “virtual run,” encouraging people to find pandemic-safe ways to honour Fox’s mission.
Fred Fox said participants’ creative initiatives made the event a “huge success,” although the amount fundraised fell short of previous years.
As the COVID-19 crisis has caused disruptions to cancer care, he said it’s all the more important that Canadians continue to support efforts to fight the disease that touches so many lives.
“What we’re going through has been devastating for so many people,” he said. “But cancer doesn’t take any breaks. And research can’t either.”
Adina Bresge, The Canadian Press