We at the Riverside believe in good causes and it is with great pride that we too join the Relay for Life in aid of cancer research. This horrible disease spares no one from it’s terrible reach as we all have lost family or friends to this terrible scourge. I personally lost a woman who was like a second mom to me a little over a year ago, not long ago a Second Life friend and great DJ Maggie McCardle lost her life after a short battle with the awful plague and just recently watched a co-worker deal with his daughter’s fight that finally ended for her on March 22, at the age of 31.
It is impossible to live on this earth and not be affected by cancer. We can help though. We can do our part. We will have a kiosk in our club and anyone who can help will be welcome to do so there. Please do. We sometimes think that we can’t contribute much but every little bit does help.
Today is a special day in Canada. Today marks the 30th anniversary of Terry Fox dipping his foot in the Atlantic Ocean in St. John’s, Newfoundland and starting his cross Canada run to raise money and awareness for cancer research. It started out as a personal quest for Fox and became the biggest news story of the year and a source of inpiration worldwide.
Terry Fox was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba, and raised in Port Coquitlam, British Columbia, a community near Vancouver on Canada’s west coast. An active teenager involved in many sports, Terry was only 18 years old when he was diagnosed with osteogenic sarcoma (bone cancer) and forced to have his right leg amputated 15 centimetres (six inches) above the knee in 1977.
The night before his surgery, Fox was given an article about Dick Traum, the first amputee to complete the New York Marathon. The article inspired him; he embarked on a 14-month training program, telling his family he planned to compete in a marathon himself. In private, he devised a greater plan. His experiences in hospital upset Fox, who became angry at how little money was dedicated to cancer research in Canada. He intended to run the length of Canada in the hopes of increasing cancer awareness.
Fox ran with an unusual gait, as he was required to hop-step on his good leg due to the extra time the springs in his artificial leg required to re-set after each step. He found the training painful. The additional pressure he had to place on both his good leg and his stump led to bone bruises, blisters and intense pain. He found that after about 20 minutes of each run he crossed a pain threshold and the run became easier.
In August 1979, Fox competed in a marathon in Prince George, British Columbia where he finished in last place, ten minutes behind the nearest competitor. His effort was met with tears and applause from the other participants. Following the marathon, he revealed his plan to his family. He initially hoped to raise $1 million, but later sought to raise $1 for each of Canada’s 24 million people.
In a letter to the Canadian Cancer Society that Fox wrote, he said:
“I am not a dreamer, and I am not saying that this will initiate any kind of definitive answer or cure to cancer. But I believe in miracles. I have to.
Terry Fox, October 1979
After 18 months and running over 5,000 kilometres (3,107 miles) to prepare, Terry started his run in St. John’s, Newfoundland on April 12, 1980 with little fanfare. He would call his journey the Marathon of Hope. It was a journey that Canadians never forgot. Although it was difficult to garner attention in the beginning, enthusiasm soon grew, and the money collected along his route began to mount.
The physical demands of running a marathon every day took its toll on Fox’s body. Other than at the request of the Cancer Society while in Montreal, he refused to take a day off, even on his 22nd birthday. He frequently suffered shin splints and an inflamed knee. He developed cysts on his stump and suffered dizzy spells. Fox rejected calls for him to seek regular medical checkups, and dismissed suggestions he was risking his future health. At one point he suffered a soreness in his ankle that would not go away. Although he feared he had suffered a stress fracture, he ran for three more days before seeking medical attention, and was relieved to learn he only suffered from tendinitis and that it could be treated with painkillers.
In spite of his immense recuperative ability, Fox found that by late August he felt exhausted before he began his day’s run. On September 1, outside of Thunder Bay, he was forced to stop briefly after suffering an intense coughing fit and experiencing pains in his chest. Unsure of what else to do, he resumed running as the crowds along the highway shouted out their encouragement. A few miles later, experiencing a shortness of breath and still suffering the pain in his chest, he asked to be driven to the hospital. He feared immediately that he had run his last mile. The next day he held a tearful press conference announcing that his cancer had returned and spread to his lungs. As a result, he was forced to end his run after 143 days and 5,280 kilometres. An entire nation was stunned and saddened. While others offered to complete the run for him, Fox refused, stating that he wanted to complete his marathon himself. Terry passed away 9 months later on June 28, 1981 at the age 22.
A Canadian hero was gone, but his legacy was just beginning. Fox was the youngest person ever named a Companion of the Order of Canada, the nation’s highest civilian award. He won the 1980 Lou Marsh Award as the nation’s top sportsman and was named Canada’s Newsmaker of the Year in both 1980 and 1981. Today, millions of people in over 60 countries participate in the annual Terry Fox Run, first held in 1981 and is now the world’s largest one-day fundraiser for cancer research. Considered a national hero, many buildings, roads, schools and parks have been named in Fox’s honour across the Canada.
To date, close to $500 million has been raised worldwide for cancer research in Terry’s name through the annual Terry Fox Run, held across Canada and around the world.
The fact that I am a huge blues fan some may surmise that an Elmore James or a Robert Johnson would be my hero. They would be wrong. Terry Fox is my hero.
We are very happy to help Relay for Life.
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