Terry Fox was just 22 years old when he lost his battle to cancer on June 28, 1981. He held onto the fighting spirit, even in the end, promising donors and supporters that "I'm gonna do my very best. I'll fight. I promise I won't give up."
Today, on what would have been his 58th birthday, we look back at the journey that would take the intrepid young man 3,339 miles across the country in just 143 days.
Terrance Stanley Fox was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba on July 28, 1958. He was raised in Port Coquitlam, British Columbia on Canada's west coast. In 1977, when he was just 18 years old, the young athlete was diagnosed with osteogenic sarcoma (bone cancer). It is the most common malignant bone tumor in youth and it usually develops during adolescent growth spurts. Before the 1970's, amputation was the only treatment for this form of cancer. His right leg was amputated six inches above the knee, but he was young, strong and confident that he had beat cancer.
"I will be ready to achieve something that for me was once only a distant dream reserved for the world of miracles – to run across Canada to raise money for the fight against cancer."
Moved by the suffering of other cancer patients, and inspired by an amputee who ran the New York Marathon, Fox pledged to raise money for cancer research with his Marathon of Hope. In a letter to the Canadian Cancer Society, he requested support: "I will be ready to achieve something that for me was once only a distant dream reserved for the world of miracles – to run across Canada to raise money for the fight against cancer."
On April 12, 1980, on the quiet shore of St John's, Newfoundland, he began a journey that would inspire generations of Canadians to lace up their sneakers and run for the cause. In a symbolic gesture, he dipped his artificial leg in the Atlantic Ocean and began the first mile. He would run nearly a marathon a day, for 143 days.
On September 1, 1980 Terry stopped running. He began to cough persistently and the pain he felt wouldn't go away. The cheering crowd urged him forward, but he knew that it would be his last mile. He was just 18 miles from Thunder Bay, Ontario when he was taken to the hospital. Later, doctors confirmed that the cancer had spread to his lungs.
While he fought for his life, donations to his cause came pouring in and he achieved his goal of raising $1 from every Canadian. In fact, he raised $24.17 million. For his efforts Terry was given several awards including the Companion of the Order of Canada and the Sword of Hope from The American Cancer Society.
Terry Fox is awarded the Companion of the Order of CanadaCanadian Press
On June 28, 1981 - just one month before his 23rd birthday - Terry Fox died of cancer at the Royal Columbian Hospital in New Westminster, British Columbia, Canada.
Although he didn't live to finish his quest, Canadians and the world would go on to surpass it for him. The first Terry Fox Run was held on September 13, 1981. The event took place in more than 760 locations in Canada and around the world. About 300,000 participants ran and raised $3.5 million. To this day, Canadians and millions of people from around the world participate in The National School Run Day, The Terry Fox Run and Terry Fox fundraising events.
Where were you when Terry Fox ran his Marathon of Hope? Have you participated in The Terry Fox Run? Let us know in the comments below! Don't forget to like and share!