Terry Fox

2015-08-30 12.42.20

I am posting this days before a special day. I wanted to read and review the book entitled Terry by Douglas Coupland before September 1. That was the date 35 years ago that Terry Fox had to stop the Marathon of Hope.


He was outside of Thunder Bay, Ontario, and he could not continue his run across Canada any longer. This started as a simple book review, however I will tell you about the man himself. Terry Fox was a young man most Canadians have heard of. Many only associate him to The Terry Fox Run held every year. Many younger than myself do not realize the impact that he had on Canada, and for cancer research.

Terry Fox was a great athlete among a family of athletes. Whatever sport he tried, he excelled at. He always seemed to be smaller than the other competitors, but that just meant he had to practice more to succeed. On November 12, 1976, Terry was in a car accident. After that, his knee always hurt. In March 1977, the pain was too much to handle. Doctors told him he had bone cancer in his knee. He had to have his right leg amputated above the knee. A few months after his operation, Rick Hansen (later famous for the Man in Motion World Tour) called Terry and asked him if he would like to play wheelchair basketball. Soon after he decided to run. He competed his first marathon in 1979. He finished hours later than the other competitors. What he didn’t know, is that they waited for him to finish, and they were so moved, most had tears in their eyes and were unable to speak.

Terry had used this marathon as a stepping stone. He knew that if he could run a marathon a day, he could run across Canada. That was his plan. To run a marathon, 26 miles(42km) every day from Newfoundland to British Columbia, with one prosthetic leg, and raise money to fight cancer. On April 12, 1980 Terry left St. John`s, Newfoundland, heading west. The run was 5,300miles (8,529 km) long, and Terry planned on running 200 marathons in a row. 1 every day with no rest stops in between. WOW!!!! I have yet to run a marathon, and I am not recovering from cancer, and have both of my legs.

Terry had told the media he was planning the run, but they thought he was crazy. No one would do this. No one had even tried, so they didn`t bother to show up when he left. A few local stations would do a story when he passed through, but the National media didn`t start to take notice until he had reached Ontario. A British Columbia journalist named Doug Collins wrote a story that stated Terry had drove through Quebec. This disturbed Terry so much that he almost called the run off. He kept on though, and by the time he reached Ontario, the entire country was behind him. It was a media circus everywhere he went. I remember seeing him on tv back in the day, kicking the ball to start the CFL football game in Ottawa, and seeing the crowds when NHL star Darryl Sittler gave his All Star Game jersey to Terry in front of 10,000 fans in downtown Toronto.

Terry took the long way though Ontario, down through southern Ontario to help bring the run to a large population and get more donations. I have vague memories of this as a kid. I wish so much today that I had ran alongside with him, even for a few minutes. The impact of how important he was lost on me at the time. I was more concerned with ball hockey and hanging out with my buddies. None of us realized that he would pass through, and we would never get that chance again.

When Terry travelled to Northern Ontario there was a noticeable small dry hacking noise Terry was making. He had thought he was getting a cold. Unfortunately, the bone cancer had returned. Just outside of Thunder Bay, Terry got a dull pain in his chest that would not go away. He was taken to hospital, and they found he had a growth in one lung to size of a golf ball, and one in the other lung the size of a lemon. The bone cancer had returned and had attached itself in his lungs through his bloodstream. On June 28, 1981, Terry Fox died. But his legacy lives on. During the Marathon of Hope Terry raised $1.7 million. One week after his run ended, CTV network ran a national telethon for cancer that raised $10.5 million. Donations continued and by 1981 over $24 million had been raised. This had met Terry`s goal of $1 donated by every Canadian for cancer research. Since then over $650 million dollars has been raised for cancer research in Terry`s name. Cancer hasn`t been beaten, but many cancers can be better treated due to Terry Fox. If Terry had gotten his cancer today, he would not have lost his leg, and he likely would not die from the disease. He personally has saved people and prolonged the lives of others.

The book itself is short on words, but what words it does have are very moving. The book is full of pictures. One of the things that strike me is the images of how antiquated the artificial limb, his shoes and clothing look. Runners such as Oscar Pistorius had the use of light, carbon fiber blades to run with. They had custom made, expensive shoes and breathable clothing to run in. Terry had a heavy leg, beat up old tennis shoes and some ratty shorts. The image I remember most from my childhood is Terry`s curly hair, freckles on a sunburnt face and his smile. It seemed like he was always smiling. He was in pain, had lost a leg, the media had lied about him, he was behind on his schedule, and the cancer had returned(although he didn`t know it, or didn`t tell anyone he suspected), but he was always smiling.

B. In September of 1980, the rock band Rush presented their gold record for the album Permanent Waves to Terry. When I think of the track list of this album, the song that jumps out most for me is Freewill. Terry used his free will to choose to run across the country and raise money for cancer research. One of the lines I absolutely love from that song is “If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.“ This says we can either chose to do nothing and sit on the fence about things, or better yet to do something. Terry was not a fence sitter. He chose to help others with his condition

Many songs have been wrote about Terry Fox over the years, but one that slipped by me until doing research for this post was this one.

Some things I learned while reading this book:

Terry Fox was smaller kid. He wanted to play on the basketball team. But wasn`t big enough, and he wasn`t very good at it. He kept practicing until the coach finally had to let him play. This was the beginning of him never giving up.

Terry Fox had an enlarged heart. He could have died of a heart attack any one of the days he ran. I spoke to a man with an enlarged heart and lung problems. He told me that he wears oxygen when he is going to do any physical labour, let alone running marathons.

Terry went through 9 pairs of shoes on his journey, and since he could not afford to replace them unless absolutely needed, they applied Shoo Goo to the tread to extend the shoe`s wear.

Terry didn`t eat a special diet like runners today would. He ate what was available on the road. Usually typical diner fare. Fries, burgers etc. He ate huge amounts of food due to the calories he would burn off. Terry and his crew often had food fights to let off steam, but the rule was “food is never to touch the restaurant“. It was fair game to put fries down the pants, or cake down the shirt, but they didn`t want to make the place dirty.

The generosity of everyday people. Often lodgings and meals were free to Terry and his crew. It was a small way for people without much to give back and help Terry make it across the country as cheaply as possible. Often invitations to come over for a meal, or spend the night were offered.

Terry and his crew never took one dime from this journey. In Christmas 1980, Terry had helped raise millions of dollars for cancer. He, however was flat broke. He could not even afford to give his family Christmas presents. He gave his Mom a pink wastepaper basket, as that was all he could afford to give.

After the Marathon of Hope ended the CEO of Four Seasons Hotels, Isadore Sharp phoned Terry in hospital. Isadore had lost a son to cancer. The 2 men came up with the idea of an annual run to raise money for cancer, and so the Terry Fox Run was born.

In 2005 Terry`s image was put on the Canadian dollar coin, affectionately known here as The Loonie. Terry Fox was the first person in history to be put on a Canadian coin that was not a King or Queen. The very first one minted was struck specifically for this book, and was picked up in Winnipeg by Terry`s brother Darrell(who was part of the crew during the Marathon of Hope).

Cancer research is real, and it is not glamorous. Most days researchers spend half of their time filling out forms to try and keep the research going. They need to get by with used freezers and fridges to keep specimens viable. They work for low or no pay and try and make advancements. It is not lucrative and run in some fancy, new lab. Not like the movies at all.

The first part of this book is called Counting The Names. The author spent the better part of a year, in and out of storage lockers in the Vancouver area. They were filled top to bottom with cards, letters, greetings and signatures for Terry. I do not remember exactly, but I do think one of those names was mine. I think my grade school class sent a poster to Terry wishing him luck, and hoping he got better after the Marathon of Hope ended.

After finishing this post I will be speaking with my family. I pledge that I will be involved in the Terry Fox Run this year, and I hope they join me. I have never done it before, but this research has moved me greatly. I am not an awesome physical specimen that jogs a mile a day, but that doesn`t matter. All participants can choose to walk, wheel, run, ride. They can go as far as they choose. There are different distances. I am not big on asking people for money, but I will donate from my pocket because even though I don`t have a lot to give, I feel it is a great cause. Perhaps one day they will find a cure, and I can be a tiny part of that. Below is a poster I saw at a grocery store out of town. They are everywhere across Canada, and maybe even around the world. The Terry Fox Run is Sunday September 20, and this is the 35th anniversary.

2015-08-22 13.08.17


23 thoughts on “Terry Fox

  1. I am sad that I only have one Like to give this post. I would like to Like it a million more. This is FANTASTIC! I was reading along and saying, out loud, yes! yes! yes!

    Terry Fox was an absolute hero. One of the greatest Canadians ever. I am an old enough fogey (I was 6 at the time, but still) to remember his run happening – we saw it on the news. We talked about it at school. He was larger than life.

    And I’m reading this on the day Oliver Sacks died. Of cancer. And you know what? F**K CANCER.

    Stupendous post, Boppin. Hugely important. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks so much. He really was an inspiration.

      Also, thanks for pointing out Oliver Sacks. I read the NY Times release about him, and he was really was a great man. I now want to watch Awakenings and read some of his writings, especially Musicophilia. I recently watched a clip that shows Alzheimer’s patients talking about and listening to rock music. It really is awesome, so I get what Oliver Sacks had to say. Thanks for letting me know about him.

      F*CK CANCER!!!!!! I can see Terry yelling that at the end of every day. Exactly my thoughts as well.


  2. And just for some levity, after all of that heaviness, you mentioned Rick Hansen. Did you ever see this bunjee jump he did with Rick Mercer? Listen to what he says after the jolts stop and Mercer asks him how he is. Oh man, I howl every time. Totally classic.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Rick Mercer is one of those love him or hate him. Most of the people I know hate him, but I like his humour. His show sometimes wasn’t as funny, but I did laugh my ass off when Rick Hansen said that.
      Sorry if the write up was kind of a downer. I was kind of worried about that myself. There is one section of the book entitled “What If?” It is basically about if Terry had never lost his leg, never did the run. He might have married. Lived a normal life. The world would have still revolved. “Everything would have been the same, and yet nothing would have been the same. You and I wouldn’t have been the same. The way we view life and death and courage and strength wouldn’t have been the same.”


  3. Thanks for posting this sir, Terry was an amazing Canadian, for all the reasons you listed and more.
    It’s wonderful that 35 years later, the run remains an annual tradition. Good luck with your participation this year!

    Liked by 1 person

    • You’re welcome. He truly was awesome. I remember years ago when a friend asked me to enter and I thought it was pointless at the time. Times have changed, and I’ve gotten older and wiser. I may be slower, but no matter how long I run for, or how long it takes me, I will enter. I spoke to my family, and they agreed to run with me. I now need to teach my daughter about the man the run is named for.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks. We as Canadians seem to have a weird sense of knocking down people from our country that succeed. I don’t know why. Possibly because we are taught to be modest, and anyone that achieves a great level of success is thought of a boasting. There is no one though that could tarnish the image of Terry Fox. If I ever make it to Thunder Bay Ontario, I will take the time to stop where he stopped, see the monument, and thank him.

      Liked by 1 person

      • My mom lost respect for a lot of Canadians who became successful and then moved from the US, like Neil Young. She hated that he left. Same with Wayne Gretzky and John Candy and all the rest.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I get that. A lot of us Canadians are that way. I used to be that way, but I am not anymore. I realize that our country is small time. Especially in the music and entertainment industry. If a band, actor, musician etc. want to make it big, they have to go to the USA. And, at least in Wayne Gretzky’s (and other athletes) case it is not up to him. When the team trades you away, you don’t have a choice.

        As for hating on fellow Canadians I am guilty though. Whenever I watch a cheesy TV show or movie, I always say to myself. “That looks so Canadian.”


  4. You would have needed some awfully long headphone cords to be able to reach your home stereo.

    He really was an awesome guy. I wish I had shook his hand back in the day and said thanks.


  5. Awesome write up! Had no idea of the Rush connection as well! Here in Thunder Bay they have the Terry Fox Monument that they built in his Honor in around the area his run halted….

    Liked by 1 person

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