A true hero
To Terry Fox:
A lot of people outside of Canada probably don’t know who you are but you are a hero me to many Canadians. I remember I first heard about you and your Marathon of Hope in the spring of 1980 when I was 14 years old. You were just 21 and had lost a leg to cancer when you were 18. Despite having only 1 leg you set out to run across Canada from coast to coast with a goal of raising $1 from every Canadian to fight cancer. At that time the population of Canada was 24 million people. I remember watching the video of you dipping your leg in the Atlantic Ocean at the start of your run with a plan of finishing by dipping it in the Pacific Ocean in your home province of British Columbia. It seemed like an impossible task. You planned to run 26 miles every day, a full marathon on your good leg and a prosthetic leg. I followed the updates daily on the news as you captured the imagination of an entire country.
In the beginning you weren’t getting much attention but when you made it to Ontario people started to pay more attention. Despite the improbably odds you managed to keep up you 26 miles a day pace up. Eventually your made it to my town Niagara Falls. To this day I am embarrassed that despite having the day off I decided not to ride my bike down to City Hall to greet you. I had a dollar ready to give you but I was uncomfortable going down by myself. It turns out not many people showed up at City Hall that day. If you could run over 1700 miles from Newfoundland to my town, the least I could do would by to walk or ride the 4.5 miles to see you. However later that day when you got to Toronto you received a hero’s welcome.
The whole country was behind you now and we were confident you would finish your run. However shortly after reaching the halfway point after 143 days and 3339 miles you had to stop for medical reasons. Your cancer had returned and had spread to your lungs. I remember crying when I heard the news. Even today when writing this letter my eyes filled with tears when I got to this part. You vowed to return and finish the run after beating the cancer but it was not to be and you died 10 months later. However, it was not all for naught. Shortly after you had to stop, a telethon was held and shown on all the tv stations in the country. Between the telethon and what you had already raised during your run, the Marathon of Hope raised a total of $24.17 million dollars. This was just slightly over your goal of $1 for every Canadian. It still makes me sad that you didn’t finish your run because I wish you’d have been able to overcome your cancer, but the point of doing the run was to raise the money for cancer research. You accomplished that goal and inspired an entire country at the same time. Before you died you were awarded the Order of Canada, the highest civilian award in the country. Despite the disease you tried so hard to help find a cure taking your life you were alive to see you goal met. Even today there are annual Terry Fox runs in cities across Canada. You are a true hero and you taught me that almost anything is possible if you believe and want it bad enough.
Although I am still disappointed that 14-year old me was too frightened to go by myself and give you a dollar that day. I was afraid of the crowd I had imagined would be there and I didn’t know where I could safely lock up my bike downtown. It wasn’t the best part of town. Looking back there is a lesson in that. If something is important to you, you need to find a way to do it. That day I could have asked my Mom to drive me there or I could have just gone on my bike and found a bike rack or tree to chain up my bike and faced my fear. In life you don’t always have someone to do things with. Whether it’s going to a sporting event, a concert or even a movie. There is no shame in going alone if no one else is interested in doing it with you. You might not get a second chance. You’ll have more regrets about the things you don’t do. The final thing you taught me is that despite not meeting you made a big impact on me and many other people that never met you. Who would have thought a 21-year old with one leg and a dream could do that?
Wow. Terry sounded like an amazing and caring person. Terry may have not been able to finish his run here on earth but i assure you he is finishing his marathon in heaven. Do not beat yourself up Pete, you were 14 when you were at a stage of fear. We live and we learn and thats what you did. Im proud of your growth, continue to be brave and fearless.
Thanks for the replies to my letter Kayjah and Roger. I hope that through writing my letter that spread Terry’s story to others that may have never heard about him. I think it is cool that Roger had already heard about him. I hope that maybe someone will read it and be inspired to push through when encountering something that seems overwhelming or someone that has a dream and believes in themself enough to pursue it. Whi=o would have thought a 21 year old kid would be able to raise 24 million dollars for cancer research in the days before social media existed yet he did it.
Looking at back saying he only made it half way across the country by running 3339 miles doesn’t do him justice. To put it in better perspective it is 2779 miles from New York to L.A. so Terry did that plus an extra 560 miles. That seems crazy when you think about it that way. On top of that since his death to date, $850 million has been raised in his name through the annual Terry Fox runs.
I was stumped with how to come up with a picture for my story for the Unsealed since it needed to be one that I had taken. I really wanted a picture of Terry. Then I realized that there was a plaque to honour his visit to the city down at the city hall. I immediately got in my car and headed down there to take the picture. Although I was 42 years late for his visit it felt like I was finally doing right by him by sharing his story and making that trip to city hall.
Looking back now it is even more a
Not only did I know about Terry, I actually shared a post on my Facebook about literally just Friday afternoon. I’ve had the opportunity to visit Canada several times visiting both Toronto and Montreal in my late teens. I still want to visit Halifax and see the memorial to the victims of the Titanic disaster.
It is so incredible what Terry was able to do in his short time here. It is awesome that such a great role model made the kind of impact on your life that Terry did. Thanks for sharing this wonderful letter with us.