His name was Terry Fox and you would be hard pressed to find a Canadian of any age who does not know his name - he is a National Hero. Terry’s story is one of an ordinary young man (so described by his mother) who had the courage to dream extraordinary things and, in this quest, made things happen that even he could not dream of.
In 1977, at the age of 18, while pursuing a degree in kinesiology, Terry’s world was rocked when knee pain revealed osteosarcoma and within only 3 days of this diagnosis, Terry’s right leg was amputated above the knee.
It might tell you something about his character if you knew that he was fitted with a new prosthetic and was out golfing only 6 weeks after the operation. It might also tell you something about his character if you knew that the inspiration for Terry’s achievements was not his own situation, but rather seeing the suffering of all the children in the oncology ward undergoing chemo and radiation treatment. His legendary motto, “somewhere the hurting must stop” was born here.
Terry had an idea, but interestingly, he kept his idea a secret. He began training. Imagine learning to walk all over again and then learning to run. I wonder how many times he fell and got up on that old track? I wonder what was going through his head as he silently dreamt of running across Canada, hoping to raise 1 million dollars?
For a year he told his family he was training for the Vancouver marathon. 4800 km (almost 3000 miles) later Terry announced his plans to run 8000 km (almost 5000 miles) in 6 months, in the hopes of raising 1 million dollars for cancer research. Initially, his family was not supportive and who could blame them?
On Friday April 13, 1980, armed with his best friend and a donated Ford Van, Terry Fox, age 22, dipped his artificial leg into the Atlantic Ocean to St John’s Newfoundland and The Marathon of Hope began.
Terry raised his goal to a brazen $24 million dollars (the approximate population of Canada at that time was the approximate equivalent of $1 from each Canadian for cancer research).
Terry was running the equivalent of a marathon a day. Imagine…shoes, socks, prosthetic, rain, pain, wind, and hills.
On September 1, 1980,143 days after beginning his journey, more than ⅓ way across the country near Thunder Bay, Ontario, Terry was forced to stop his run when the cancer, which had spread to his lungs, affected his breathing too much to go on. Imagine...anguish, defeat.
Terry died on June 28th, 1981, but not before being the youngest person ever to be awarded the “Order of Canada”, the highest Canadian Civilian award, and not before becoming one of the greatest Canadian heroes of the 21st century.
His most inspiring quote, one I think of many times when I want to give up, is this...“I set a thousand goals a day, past this sign, past that tree…”
Nurses, you probably don’t want to run across your country, but I am sure there is something you do want. Whatever your dream, desire, wish, hope is, set a BIG goal, then break it down into a thousand ‘little’ goals and pass one ‘tree’ at a time.
Thanks Terry, for the inspiration.
PS: To date, over $400 million dollars has been raised in Terry’s name. Visit www.terryfox.org to find out how you can help honour his dream.