Terry Fox - Terry Fox Humanitarian Award Program


Terry Fox was an athlete, humanitarian, and cancer research activist. For most of his life he lived in the Vancouver area of British Columbia.

In 1977, at the age of nineteen, Terry was diagnosed with osteogenic sarcoma, a bone cancer that necessitated amputation of his right leg. After the surgery, he progressed well, and several weeks later he was walking with an artificial prosthetic leg. He returned to his studies and went back to taking part in sports.

After the amputation, he went through 16 months of chemotherapy. At the clinic, it was hard for him to see the pain and suffering of the young children, with little or no chance of recovery. He learned that research to find cures for the various forms of cancer was underfunded. A lot more was needed.

Terry was determined to do something to make a difference, however hard it might seem. He decided to run across Canada to raised money for cancer research. “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.”

Does that thought resonate with you? If you were to feel passionate like Terry did, you might be surprised at yourself.

Accompanied by his friend Doug Alward, Fox started his Marathon of Hope on April 12, 1980 in St. John’s, Newfoundland. Conditions were difficult. The media’s weak response was disappointing. And he had to deal with unpredictable weather that included high winds and falling snow causing slippery roads.

Physical problems added to the challenges. Fox endured painful blisters, falling toenails, a bleeding and aching stump, and mechanical issues with his artificial leg, which was not made to withstand the stress he was exerting on it. But he didn’t let anything stand in his way. His determination never failed.

When Fox neared Thunder Bay, Ontario, he felt weaker than usual and was experiencing frequent dizzy spells.

“People were still lining the road saying, ‘Keep going, don’t give up, you can do it, you can make it, we’re all behind you.’ There was a camera crew waiting to film me. I don’t think they even realized that they had filmed my last mile… people were still saying, ‘You can make it all the way Terry’. I started to think about those comments in that mile too. Yeah, I thought, this might be my last one.”

On September 1, after enduring intense pain in his chest, he saw a doctor. Tests determined that the cancer had spread to his lungs. He would need chemotherapy.

The following day he announced at a press conference that he would have to abandon his marathon for a while, but he vowed to continue as soon as he was able to do so. He returned home to his family and began treatment.

By this point, Terry had run the equivalent of a full marathon each day and had raised $1.7 million (CAD) for cancer research. On June 28, 1981, at the age of 22, Terry died. His death received worldwide coverage.

Terry;s work continues, even now. Every year, on the second Sunday following Labour Day, the Terry Fox runs happen in communities all over Canada. Since their inception, over $750 million (CAD) have been raised and there have been considerable advances in the treatment of various cancers, including osteogenic sarcoma, which can now be treated without amputation.

More about this brave man in the next post. How did losing his leg help him find meaning in his life?

This has been Part 16 of the series A Voice of One Calling. Read Part 17 Finding Meaning