Thirty-Five Years Ago Today an Entire Nation Deflated…


Terry Fox Memorial in Thunder Bay Ontario where the Marathon ended on Sept 1, 1980

On September 1, 1980 one of the most courageous endeavors that the country, if not the world, has ever seen came to a tragic and unexpected end. Terry Fox announced that his inspirational, and some would say, impossible, Marathon of Hope, was sadly over. The cancer that had taken his leg a few years earlier had now returned in his lungs, and he had to stop. He was running in Thunder Bay Ontario, but when he had trouble catching his breath and experienced intense chest pains, he finally allowed himself to go to the hospital where he was given the bad news.

The next day he announced the news to the entire country, and I imagine that there was an audible gasp of disbelief, shock and sadness that the young man who had so captured the hearts of so many of us across the country and around the world was probably not going to be able to finish his noble quest of running across Canada to raise money for cancer research.

Who can forget the image of Terry the next day, lying on a stretcher, microphones shoved in his face, and telling the world in a voice cracking with emotion, that

“Well, you know, I had primary cancer in my knee three and a half years ago, and now the cancer is in my lung… and I have to go home…”

If you want to see the video archive of that four-minute interview you can find it here on the CBC archives.

In reality, perhaps we should not have been so shocked. But we had come to know this young man being beamed into our living room for months and he seemed, well, indestructible. So powerful was his will and so indomitable was his spirit and his determination that we must have all been lulled into a state of thinking that he was a superman.

Sadly, he was not….

Remarkably though, he still managed to log 143 days and 5,373 kilometres (3,339 mi) in his iconic Marathon of Hope. To say that the legacy of that original Marathon persists today would be a gross understatement.

I have written about Terry Fox on more than one occasion on these pages, most recently here so I will not repeat what I said. Suffice it to say that, to this very day, I feel proud and privileged to have been very directly involved with the annual Terry Fox Run both in Canada and abroad for many years, and still feel incredibly humbled by the accomplishments and the heart and the courage and the spirit of this true Canadian hero.

Cancer research in this country got a HUGE shot in the arm from the Marathon of Hope, and still does from the annual Terry Fox Runs. Terry’s legacy is not just his inspiration, but a tangible set of advances in the diagnosis and treatment of cancer, brought about by the $Millions of dollars still being lovingly raised in his name.

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