Sunday Snippet: Terry Fox (1958-1981)

“I don’t feel that this is unfair. That’s the thing about cancer. I’m not the only one, it happens all the time to people. I’m not special. This just intensifies what I did. It gives it more meaning. It’ll inspire more people. I just wish people would realize that anything’s possible if you try; dreams are made possible if you try.”

A couple of years ago, I wrote about why the golden rule is wrong. That’s one perspective, but my good friend and former BTR blogger Lesley Chang says that she has a different golden rule: it’s not about you.

That’s the thing. Whether or not we are willing to admit it, whether or not we consciously realize we’re doing it, we all have the habit of putting ourselves at the center of the universe. At times, we may feel like the world should revolve around us. We feel like we’re special. We feel like we’re unique. We feel like those “bad things” only ever happen to “other people” and that they’ll never happen to us. But they can. And they did for the man behind the Marathon of Hope.

But Terry Fox never played the role of victim. As he said in the quote above, he realized that he wasn’t the only one and that it “happens all the time to people.” And he didn’t want that to be the case anymore and that is what inspired him to start a cross-Canada run in 1980, raising money and awareness for cancer research. What became the Marathon of Hope started in St. John’s Newfoundland and while Terry’s goal was to make it all the away across the country, it came to an untimely end after 143 days and over 5,000 kilometres in Thunder Bay, Ontario.

He had the original goal of raising $24 million, one dollar for every Canadian (at the time). To date, more than $500 million has been raised for cancer research in his name. Indeed, the annual Terry Fox Run is now held in over 60 countries around the world.

“Maybe that’s why I’ve made it as far as I have – 2,521 miles. If I ran to a doctor every time I got a little cyst or abrasion I’d still be in Nova Scotia. Or else I’d never have started. I’ve seen people in so much pain. The little bit of pain I’m going through is nothing. They can’t shut it off, and I can’t shut down every time I feel a little sore.”

Running the equivalent of a full marathon isn’t easy for regular folk. Imagine how difficult it was for Terry to do that with just one leg (plus his prosthetic leg). He was clearly in pain, but he recognized that he had a much larger and more important goal in front of him. Yes, life is hard, but it can be a lot harder. And by pushing through that pain, Terry Fox has become a Canadian icon.

He was born in Winnipeg, but Terry and his family moved to BC when he was still very young. He went to school in Port Coquitlam and that’s why Terry Fox is widely regarded as one of the most famous British Columbians. He also one of the most beloved. Terry Fox is an inspiration to all of us.

Today, July 28, would have been Terry’s birthday. He would have been 55.