Saturday, September 26, 2009

Inspiration From Terry Fox

On Thursday morning at my school our students took part in the Terry Fox Run. This has been a tradition in our schools ever since I walked the halls as a young student, not a teacher.

Terry Fox was a Canadian humanitarian, athlete, and cancer treatment activist. He became famous for the Marathon of Hope, a cross-Canada run to raise money for cancer research, which Fox ran with one prosthetic leg. He is considered one of Canada's greatest heroes and is celebrated internationally every September as people participate in the Terry Fox Run, the world's largest one-day fundraiser for cancer research.

On Thursday morning, our students gathered in the assembly and watch a short video of Terry from his Marathon of Hope in 1980. His stride was not that of an easy run, for after losing one of his legs from the knee down to Cancer, running was not something that came easily. But Terry was an athlete, and had determination. He had a dream of a Cancer free world, and set to raise money for a cure for Cancer. His stride - hop through Canadian streets was inspirational, and students everywhere were glued to television sets watching to see how far this young man from BC made each day on his journey across Canada. Fox was unable to complete his run, as his bone cancer had metastasized to his lungs. X-rays revealed that Fox's right lung had a lump the size of a golf ball and his left lung had another lump the size of a lemon. He was forced to stop the run on September 1, 1980 just north-east of Thunder Bay, Ontario, after 143 days. He had run 5,373 km or 3,339 miles (roughly 23.3 miles per day) through Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, Quebec, and Ontario. Eight days after Terry Fox was forced to stop, the CTV television network organized a nationwide telethon in hopes of raising additional funds for the cause of cancer research; it proved so successful that $10.5 million was raised that day. The campaigns were so successful that by February 1981, $24.17 million dollars had been raised and Terry Fox's dream of getting one dollar from every single Canadian for cancer research had been realized.

Terry Fox is today considered a national hero of Canada. He was named a Companion of the Order of Canada, the nation's highest civilian honour, on September 18, 1980 by Edward Schreyer, Canada's then serving Governor-General. Schreyer travelled to Port Coquitlam to personally present the medal to Terry himself.

In June 1981, Fox developed pneumonia, and on June 27, he went into a coma. He died on the 28th at 4:35 a.m., which was his favourite hour of running, a year after his legendary run, and exactly one month shy of his twenty-third birthday. Flags were flown at half-mast on Canadian government buildings across Canada and overseas while tributes poured in to Terry Fox's family who retreated home to prepare for his burial. Canada's serving Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau in his address before Canada's House of Commons said that Terry gave far more to his country than his country was able to give to him. Trudeau also noted that:

"It occurs very rarely in the life of a nation that the courageous spirit of one person unites all people in the celebration of his life and in the mourning of his death....We do not think of him as one who was defeated by misfortune but as one who inspired us with the example of the triumph of the human spirit over adversity."

On July 3, 1981, Terry succumbed to the Cancer which he so ardently tried to overcome. But the Marathon of Hope did not die with Terry. Every September, school aged children all over the world participate in Terry Fox Runs. It is an important part of our history, and culture not only to continue Terry's dream of fundraising to find a cure for Cancer, but also to reconnect to the strength within ourselves to achieve our goals and dreams.

One of my favourites quotes from Terry is this:

"I just wish people would realize that anything’s possible if you try; dreams are made possible if you try. "

When I saw this on the gym wall at school on Friday I cried. I was so moved, even after all these years by a young man who had one leg, Cancer, and who never gave up on his dreams.

So I won't give up on mine. Thank-you Terry for the inspiration that I needed to refocus my dreams of becoming a healthier me, and for everyone that's striving for a goal, just remember anything is possible if you try.

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