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Terry Fox’s Dream and Legacy Live On

Terry Fox
Terry Fox

Canadian athlete, humanitarian, and hero Terry Fox set out on his Marathon of Hope 41 years ago to raise money and awareness for cancer research. Terry left behind a dream to create a world without cancer — one that the Fox family continues to share. Mediaplanet spoke with Fred Fox, his brother and Manager of Supporter Relations for The Terry Fox Foundation, about Terry’s legacy.

What were some of Terry’s thoughts before his Marathon of Hope?

When Terry was diagnosed in 1977 with cancer — osteogenic sarcoma — I can honestly say that neither of us knew very much about cancer. When Terry first heard the word “cancer” he was shocked; when he was told he would lose his right leg he was devastated. Three days later, on the night before his amputation, I said to Terry, “Why do you have to have cancer? Your dreams of playing basketball at a high level and going to university are coming true.” By this time, he’d had some time to think about what was ahead and he replied, “Why not me, Fred? I’ve been told all my life that I’m not big enough, not good enough. This is just another challenge I have to overcome.”

Over the next 16 months of chemotherapy, Terry witnessed pain and suffering in the cancer wards that he couldn’t ignore. Then he learned that cancer research was seriously underfunded in Canada. Terry decided he needed to do something about it and began training for a fundraising run across Canada, spending close to 15 months and running over 5,000 kilometres in preparation alone. Before his Marathon of Hope Terry wrote to a friend saying, “It took cancer to realize that being self-centered is not the way to live. The answer is to try and help others.” 

How do The Terry Fox Foundation and the Fox family carry on Terry’s legacy? 

Before his death on June 28, 1981, Terry had achieved his once unimaginable goal of $1 from every Canadian. More importantly, he had set in motion the framework for an event, The Terry Fox Run, that would ignite cancer research in Canada, raising more than $850 million since 1980, and bring hope and health to millions of Canadians. The Foundation has a dual mandate: to maintain Terry’s visions and principles while raising funds for cancer research. With only 10 offices and 48 full-time staff across Canada, the Foundation looks to its corps of over 20,000 community and school Terry Fox Run volunteers to lead the charge on the ground, supporting the participation of close to 4 million Canadians.

If Terry were still here today, what do you think his message would be?

On July 11, 1980, Terry spoke to a crowd of 10,000 in Toronto and said, “Even if I don’t finish, we need others to continue. It’s got to keep going without me.” Terry would be proud to know that people have taken up the challenge he issued that day. He would be even more proud to know that what he started has now raised more than $850 million for cancer research. However, knowing Terry as I do, he would also remind us that our work is not yet finished — that we have projects to fund and cures to find. Terry would never have stopped trying, and neither will we. 

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