The Long Run

A col­lec­tion of es­says on the legacy of Terry Fox speaks to faith, hope and char­ity

ZOOMER Magazine - - CONTENTS - By Kim Honey

A col­lec­tion of es­says on the last­ing legacy of Terry Fox is pub­lished on the 40th an­niver­sary of his run

Ev­ery day, Dar­rell Fox opens the jour­nal that trav­elled ev­ery mile of the Marathon of Hope and reads the cor­re­spond­ing entry hand­writ­ten 40 years ago by his brother, Terry Fox.

It be­gan on April 12, 1980, in St. John’s, but the pas­sage that gets him is from South Brook Junc­tion, N.L., on April 27 – Day 15 and 542 kilo­me­tres into the run.

“To­day we got up at 4:00 a.m. As usual, it was tough. If I died, I would die happy be­cause I was do­ing what I wanted to do. How many peo­ple could say that? I want to set an ex­am­ple that will never be for­got­ten. It is courage and not fool­ish­ness. It isn’t a waste.”

Dar­rell wasn’t there that day be­cause he didn’t join Terry and his best friend, Doug Al­ward, un­til May 31 in Saint John, N.B. Read­ing the words pains him, given Terry’s un­wa­ver­ing de­ter­mi­na­tion to run a marathon – 42 kilo­me­tres – ev­ery day on one leg and a fi­bre-glass-and-steel pros­the­sis, from St. John’s to Van­cou­ver, to raise money for can­cer re­search. “It’s al­most like he knew what was ly­ing ahead,” Dar­rell

says in a tele­phone in­ter­view from his home in Chilli­wack, B.C., “that he may not fin­ish the Marathon of Hope, that some­thing else that was out of his con­trol was go­ing to hap­pen to him.”

Ev­ery can­cer pa­tient can re­late. Even those who make it past the vaunted five-year all-clear mark won­der if malev­o­lent cells lurk in their bod­ies and live in fear of their re­turn.

It’s hard to be­lieve that on July 28, Terry Fox would have turned 62. Since his death on June 28, 1981, from bone can­cer that had spread to his lungs, which powered him for 5,373 kilo­me­tres, the am­putee with his dis­tinc­tive dou­ble-hop gait has been im­mor­tal­ized as a Cana­dian hero for rais­ing $24 mil­lion for can­cer re­search – a dol­lar for ev­ery Cana­dian at the time – with his ral­ly­ing cry: “Some­where, the hurt­ing has to stop.”

Since then, the an­nual Terry Fox Run has raised $800 mil­lion for can­cer re­search, which in­cludes funds raised in the 1980 Marathon of Hope. In 2019, the run brought in $25.3 mil­lion, sec­ond in Canada to The Ride to Con­quer Can­cer, which raised $39 mil­lion, ac­cord­ing to Peer-to-Peer Fundrais­ing Canada, an or­ga­ni­za­tion that sup­ports non­prof­its that rely on friends, fam­ily and col­leagues to raise money.

The Terry Fox Run con­tin­ues to draw 3.4 mil­lion par­tic­i­pants an­nu­ally 39 years af­ter it was es­tab­lished, with the money go­ing to the Terry Fox Re­search In­sti­tute, which dis­burses the funds to can­cer re­searchers.

Terry Fox’s story is im­printed on the minds and mus­cles of ev­ery gen­er­a­tion since the baby boomers, in­clud­ing kinder­garten stu­dents, who learn about him when el­e­men

tary schools plan their runs. But the Fox sib­lings – Fred, 63, Dar­rell, 58, and Judith, 55 – live it ev­ery day.

“It’s al­ways within. It’s al­ways so close,” says Dar­rell, who is on the re­search in­sti­tute’s board of di­rec­tors and serves as se­nior ad­viser. “It’s tough at times, and there’s al­ways go­ing to be emo­tion with it, but it’s al­ways, first and fore­most, a very pos­i­tive ex­pe­ri­ence.”

Now the Terry Fox Foun­da­tion, with Dar­rell aid­ing the ef­fort, will pub­lish For­ever Terry: A Legacy in Letters on Sept. 1, the date Terry stopped run­ning. It’s a col­lec­tion of es­says from 43 Cana­di­ans re­flect­ing on the curly-headed, freckle-faced 22-year-old’s im­pact on the hearts and lives of Cana­di­ans.

There’s singer Tom Cochrane, re­call­ing that day. He was ready to pack it in, tired of a life on the road with his band, Red Rider. They were driv­ing from a gig in Win­nipeg to Toronto when they were stopped in traf­fic out­side Thun­der Bay. A fig­ure came into fo­cus be­hind a po­lice car driv­ing ever so slowly with flash­ing lights. “It was a boy run­ning with one leg,” Cochrane writes. “On that face were writ­ten a thou­sand sto­ries, etched on it from ev­ery mile that he ran.”

Terry’s courage gave him the in­spi­ra­tion to carry on. “I was blessed to be able to write songs and play mu­sic, to make peo­ple laugh, smile, dance and feel a lit­tle less alone in the world. I never looked back.”

There’s Mar­garet At­wood’s pas­sage from The Year of the Flood, the sec­ond book in her Mad­dAd­dam tril­ogy, where the res­i­dents of a world al­tered by nat­u­ral disaster are re­minded of hu­man­ity’s good on Saint Terry’s Day.

“Saint Terry Fox … raced against Mor­tal­ity, and in the end, out­ran his own Death, and lives on in Me­mory,” reads the ex­cerpt.

There are Terry’s hockey heroes, Bobby Orr and Dar­ryl Sit­tler; bas­ket­ball star Steve Nash, who di­rected the 2010 doc­u­men­tary about Terry called Into the Wind; Par­a­lympic track-and-field ath­lete Rick Hansen, a friend of Terry’s who taught him wheel­chair bas­ket­ball and went on to raise $26 mil­lion for spinal- cord in­jury re­search on his Man In Mo­tion tour; and en­tries from singers Michael Bublé, Jann Ar­den and Rush’s Geddy Lee, whose mu­sic played in the van on the Marathon of Hope.

The sto­ries – from can­cer sur­vivors and can­cer re­searchers, friends and donors, run­ners that Dar­rell calls Terry Fox­ers and or­ga­niz­ers he calls Terry’s team mem­bers – made the book team weep.

De­spite a life de­voted to all things Terry Fox, there were still sur­prises. Dar­rell talks about Terry’s drive, ev­i­dent at a young age when he de­cided to play bas­ket­ball even though he was far from the best player on the team. Terry prac­tised twice as hard as every­one else and was play­ing for Si­mon Fraser Univer­sity in 1977 when he was di­ag­nosed with bone can­cer, and his leg was am­pu­tated above the knee. Hansen re­cruited him to play wheel­chair bas­ket­ball in Van­cou­ver, which is how they met hockey su­per­star Wayne Gret­zky.

In the book, Gret­zky re­calls he was play­ing for the Ed­mon­ton Oil­ers in 1979 when the team’s PR per­son asked him, Mark Messier, Kevin Lowe and Lee Fo­golin to play in a char­ity game against Team Canada, which was stacked with Hansen and Terry. They de­mol­ished the Great One and his team­mates.

“I didn’t know that Wayne Gret­zky played wheel­chair bas­ket­ball with Terry and Rick,” says Dar­rell. “That was so cool. And they got blown away. They lost 44-4.”

Dar­rell was sur­prised and de­lighted to learn the pho­to­graph by Peter Martin on the cover of this magazine hangs in the en­trance­way to Sid­ney Crosby’s house, with the April 12 quote from Terry’s jour­nal – “To­day we got up at 4:00 a.m. As usual, it was tough” – un­der­neath. “His words are a re­minder that not ev­ery day is go­ing to be great or easy, but your work ethic and com­mit­ment will get you through,” writes Crosby, the NHL MVP touted as the Next One.

To Dar­rell, what Terry ac­com­plished men­tally and phys­i­cally was noth­ing short of a mir­a­cle. “How did he run a marathon with two tu­mours? The doc­tor who diag

nosed Terry the sec­ond time couldn’t be­lieve that he walked into the hospi­tal, let alone ran 26 miles the day be­fore. It de­fies logic.”

As he works his way through the jour­nal, he can see Terry’s en­ergy flag as the en­tries get shorter, the ex­cla­ma­tion points dis­ap­pear and the hand­writ­ing de­te­ri­o­rates into a scrawl.

Dar­rell knows when he turns to the last page on Sept. 1, the mem­o­ries will come in a tor­rent. Driv­ing the mo­torhome to the rest stop and find­ing no one there. Learn­ing Terry asked Doug to take him to the hospi­tal. Dis­cov­er­ing Terry had a tu­mour the size of a lemon in one lung and one the size of a golf ball in the other. Terry telling re­porters: “I’m go­ing to do my very best. I’ll fight. I won’t give up” and “This hap­pens all the time to other peo­ple. I’m not spe­cial.”

Terry Fox was the epit­ome of grit, able to dig deep and per­se­vere against over­whelm­ing odds to achieve his goals, whether it was rais­ing $24 mil­lion or run­ning that last mile. There are lessons we can take from Terry’s short life in a world grap­pling with a pan­demic, on the brink of en­vi­ron­men­tal catas­tro­phe and hurt­ing from racism’s deep wounds.

As we seek a new nor­mal, we can re­flect on our pur­pose in life, just as Terry did at 18, when he saw can­cer pa­tients los­ing their lives to the disease. “Can­cer awak­ened him,” says Dar­rell. “That’s where his idea of giv­ing back and help­ing oth­ers be­came his fo­cus.”

When Terry Fox could not take another step, the na­tion picked up the man­tle of al­tru­ism and car­ried it for­ward. Forty years later, we still run for him, per­pet­u­at­ing faith in hu­man­ity and en­sur­ing the dream never dies.

Af­ter a star-stud­ded re­cep­tion in Toronto, Terry Fox crosses 16 Mile Creek in Oakville, Ont. on July 13, 1980.

Terry with his best friend, Doug Al­ward (left), and brother Dar­rell Fox on the road be­tween Wawa and Ter­race Bay, Ont.

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