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With a dream of raising $1 million for cancer patients, Terry Fox started his journey on April 12, 1980, soon the dream turned to raise $24 Million, $1 for every Canadian.

Terry Fox
Terry Fox Foundation has raised over $750 million.

When I am running each day, I take one day at a time, when I’m running I take one mile at a time and I take one corner at a time, every signpost I’m looking at and reaching up for that signpost every corner I’m reaching out and this is the type of thing I’m thinking when I’m running.

Early Life

Terry Stanley Fox got his name from his uncles from both sides of the family. Terry was born on July 28, 1958, in Winnipeg, Manitoba, with an older brother Fred and a younger brother and sister, Darrel and Judith.

Terry Fox childhood
Terry Fox (from left) with siblings Darrell, Judith and Fred.

Growing up Terry loved his own company and would stack wooden blocks until they stayed in a place. As a child, Terry loved baseball and basketball, and was enthusiastic about sports and worked hard in every game.

Terry Fox graduated from Port Coquitlam High School with A’s and one B. He later enrolled at Simon Fraser University, where his determination and hard work paid off, he made the team, as described by his teammate, “I Played against him offensively and he wasn’t that good but defensively, he was one of the toughest I’d ever played against.”

Aches are common in an athlete’s life, but for Terry Fox, the pain was meant to last forever. One morning when he woke up to find out that he couldn’t stand. To Terry’s horror, it wasn’t any cartilage problem, he had a malignant tumor, his legs would be amputated in four days.

Due to recent advancements in research, his chances of survival were 50 to 70 percent, if he’d become sick two years earlier his chances would have been 15 percent.

The night before his operation his school basketball coach, Terri Fleming, brought him a running magazine which featured an article about an amputee, who ran in the New York City Marathon, even though his future was never more precarious.

Terry dreamed about running across Canada, “I’m Competetive, I’m a dreamer, I like challenges. I don’t give up. When I decided to do it, I knew I was going to go all out. There was no in-between.”

The next 16 months of Terry’s life were only suffering, as he’d never seen it before, he saw strong, young bodies wasted by disease. Terry was among the lucky one-third of patients who survived.

“Somewhere, the hurting must stop… and I was determined to take myself to the limit for those causes.” – Terry Fox in a letter asking for sponsorship for his run.

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Terry Fox “The Marathon of Hope”

Two years after his operation, Terry started a running program. The first half of his training he ran in the dark, so no one could see him, but his coach from junior high, Bob McGill, who survived cancer himself, heard thumps of Terry’s good leg and the thud of his artificial leg.

Terry trained for 15 months, running 3,159 miles, running until his stump was raw and bleeding, he ran every day for 101 days, until he could run 23 miles a day.

When Terry told his mother Betty about his intention to run across Canada, her reaction was alike many as well, his mother told him that he was crazy, but he didn’t stop and said he was going to run no matter what. When his mother, Betty told his father about his crazy desire to run across Canada, his father simply asked, “When?”

“Somewhere, the hurting must stop… and I was determined to take myself to the limit for those cause.”

The Canadian Cancer Society doubted Terry that he could raise even $1 million, and asked him to earn some seed money and find some corporate sponsors.

Terry began his journey on April 12, 1980, by dipping his prosthetic foot in the murky waters of St John’s harbor and set off the greatest adventure of his life, inspiring millions. He collected water from the Atlantic ocean and planned to pour it in the Pacific when the race completes, symbolically uniting the country.

In the 1980s people didn’t run on prosthetic legs, running on prosthetic legs was incredibly painful for Terry as his stump would chafe and bleed but he had goals in his mind and kept running each day by thinking about the next mile.

When Terry Fox started running at the age of 21, almost no one noticed but he kept going and ran alone 26 miles a day, a full marathon on one leg every day of the week.

Terry started his marathon at Newfoundland, stopping at Thunder Ray
Terry started his marathon at Newfoundland, stopping at Thunder Ray

His best friend Doug Alward trailed in a van behind him, Terry ran from Newfoundland towards his hometown, where he planned to finish the run and pour the water he collected at the Atlantic.

Terry loved the early morning, so he’d wake up at 4 A.M. anyway and start running and get a few miles in, stop for breakfast and then he would finish the rest of his miles off.

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Terry’s determination began to pay off people began to take notice, when running through a town of 10,000 people he raised$10,000, $1 for every person. He changed his goal of raising 1 million dollars to $24 million, $1 for every Canadian.

Terry Fox met many fans during his marathon
Many fans donated while they met Terry Fox.

The support kept growing, news media across Canada began to cover Terry Fox’s Marathon of Hope, with daily updates of where he was. When Terry entered the province of Ontario, he was invited to kick off a CFL game. The crowds got bigger, more donations made its way.

Terry wasn’t running across Canada to become famous, he wanted to make a difference in other people’s lives. The money came in many ways, Four Seasons’ President, Isadore Sharp, was also caught up in the dream of the Marathon of Hope, he pledged $10,000 to the marathon and challenged 999 other Canadian corporations to do the same.

The Re-Birth Of Cancer

Throughout his run and even in the months before, Terry neglected his medical appointments. No one could force him to see a doctor for a check-up. He said he didn’t believe cancer would come back.

STOCK Terry Fox. Published 19800903 with the caption: Terry Fox's mother and father are embraced by his companion Bill Vigars as ambulance attendants wheel Terry to jet for a flight to British Columbia
STOCK Terry Fox. Published 19800903 with the caption: Terry Fox’s mother and father are embraced by his companion Bill Vigars as ambulance attendants wheel Terry to jet for a flight to British Columbia

As he approached the city of Thunder Bay on September 1st, 1980, Terry Fox had run 3,339 miles, nearly the distance between Miami and Seattle, he asked to be taken to the hospital.

Doctors examined Terry’s lungs then offered a diagnosis, cancer had returned. Terr had a tumor the size of the golf ball on both of his lungs. Terry shared the news from a stretcher about his cancer.

“The cancer had spread and now I’ve got cancer in my lungs and we got to go home and try and do some treatment but.. all I can say is of any way I can get out there again and finish it, I will “

Terry was taken to a Vancouver hospital to endure new rounds of treatment. So far the donation reached $10 million. As Christmas of 1980 drew near, Terry confined to his mother a single regret he faced: “You know I’ve raised millions of dollars and I haven’t got a dollar to buy my family a Christmas present “

Terry Fox died on June 28th, 1981, 30 days before his twenty-third birthday, he died surrounded by love, the love of his family and the entire nation.

The entire nation of Canada has never forgotten Terry Fox. In Thunder Bay, a statue remembers Terry in full stride, head up facing the west running home. Terry Fox wanted to try the impossible to show that it can be done and that’s exactly what he did. Terry even wrote in his journal that “If I die at least I’ll die happy doing what I wanted to do in life.”

Read about the Truth Behind origin of the story Hansel and Gretel.

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