40 years after Terry Fox ended Marathon of Hope, brother remembers ‘rollercoaster ride’ of a day

Four decades and $800 million in fundraising later, brother Fred Fox urges people to come together through the pandemic in the first virtual Marathon of Hope

This story was first published Sept. 1, the day Terry Fox was forced to end his run. We're reposting it today, Sept. 20, 2020, the day thousands of Tri-City residents and Canadians from coast to coast embark on a new, virtual kind of Marathon of Hope as it celebrates its 40th anniversary amidst a once in a century pandemic.

 

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Forty years ago today, Port Coquitlam native Terry Fox wrote his last journal entry: “21 miles. 3,339 miles total.”

He was near Thunder Bay, Ont., 143 days into his marathon when the pain had grown so intense that Terry felt like he was having a heart attack. He crawled into a sleeping bag to wait it out, but when the pain didn’t subside, he was taken to a hospital.

Fox’s parents and brother Fred were in Chilliwack that Labour Day weekend at the now shut Canadian Armed Forces base participating in a cancer fundraiser. 

“On the way home, dad turned on the radio and heard he was in Thunder Day in hospital,” said Fred Fox. 

By the time they pulled into their Port Coquitlam driveway, thy could hear the phone ringing inside. Terry had been calling all afternoon and when they finally answered the phone, the message was sombre: his cancer had returned, extinguishing any promise the Marathon of Hope could continue. 

Having begun his journey nearly five months earlier by dipping his artificial leg in the Atlantic Ocean off St. John’s, N.L., Fox’s determination to bring both awareness and funding to cancer research has since set off an annual saga which has inspired generations of Canadians to follow in his footsteps ever since.

 

To date, the Terry Fox Foundation has raised roughly $800 million for cancer research, largely from average people raising money through the annual run in towns and cities across the country.

While today marks the anniversary of the end of Fox’s journey, it also stands as the moment when the rest of Canadians picked up his mantle, and should serve to inspire us all to do what we can to help others, said Terry Fox’s brother.

“That day was a bit of a rollercoaster ride,” said Fred Fox. “But it’s been such a positive thing ever since. The outcome of someone diagnosed with cancer is so much better today than it was 40 years ago.”

“We owe them so much thanks for continuing Terry’s dream and keeping it alive.”

Now, four decades later, that ritual will go virtual for the first time as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to threaten public health across Canada and the globe.

A virtual Terry Fox Run will be held in 650 communities across Canada — including the Tri-Cities — and plans are for people to hold their own runs on Sept. 20, 2020, with funds raised going towards cancer research.

“Cancer is still there. Even through the pandemic, people are being diagnosed with cancer. So get out there with your family maybe extended friends. Walk from your house, your favourite location or park,” he said. 

Here’s how the virtual fundraiser works:

  • Go to www.terryfox.org/run to register.
  • Plan out your run, whether it be around your neighbourhood, backyard or down the street. Participants can also walk or ride their route.
  • The idea is to register as an individual, family or virtual team and start your fundraising effort.
  • Then on Sept. 20, do your promised activity to help raise funds for cancer research in support of Terry Fox’s mission when the Port Coquitlam-raised man embarked on his storied Marathon of Hope.

— With files from Diane Strandberg

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