Terrance Stanley "Terry" Fox CC OD (July 28, 1958 – June 28, 1981) was a Canadian athlete, humanitarian, and cancer research activist. In 1980, with one leg having been amputated, he embarked on a cross-Canada run to raise money and awareness for cancer research. Although the spread of his cancer eventually forced him to end his quest after 143 days and 5,373 kilometres (3,339 mi), and ultimately cost him his life, his efforts resulted in a lasting, worldwide legacy. The annual Terry Fox Run, first held in 1981, has grown to involve millions of participants in over 60 countries and is now the world's largest one-day fundraiser for cancer research; over C$650 million has been raised in his name. Fox was a distance runner and basketball player for his Port Coquitlam, British Columbia, high school and Simon Fraser University. His right leg was amputated in 1977 after he was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, though he continued to run using an artificial leg. He also played wheelchair basketball in Vancouver, winning three national championships. In 1980, he began the Marathon of Hope, a cross-country run to raise money for cancer research. He hoped to raise one dollar from each of Canada's 24 million people. He began with little fanfare from St. John's, Newfoundland, in April and ran the equivalent of a full marathon every day. Fox had become a national star by the time he reached Ontario; he made numerous public appearances with businessmen, athletes, and politicians in his efforts to raise money. He was forced to end his run outside Thunder Bay when the cancer spread to his lungs. His hopes of overcoming the disease and completing his marathon ended when he died nine months later. In addition to being youngest person ever named a Companion of the Order of Canada, Fox won the 1980 Lou Marsh Award as the nation's top sportsman and was named Canada's Newsmaker of the Year in both 1980 and 1981. Considered a national hero, he has had many buildings, roads and parks named in his honour across the country.
Terry Fox was born on July 28, 1958, in Winnipeg, Manitoba, to Roland and Betty Fox. Roland was a switchman for the Canadian National Railway. Terry had an elder brother, Fred, a younger brother, Darrell, and a younger sister, Judith. His family moved to Surrey, British Columbia, in 1966, then settled in Port Coquitlam, in 1968. His parents were dedicated to their family, and his mother was especially protective of her children; it was through her that Fox developed his stubborn dedication to whatever task he committed to do. His father recalled that he was extremely competitive, noting that Terry hated to lose so much that he would continue at any activity until he succeeded. He was an enthusiastic athlete, playing soccer, rugby and baseball as a child. His passion was for basketball and though he stood only five feet tall and was a poor player at the time, Fox sought to make his school team in grade eight. Bob McGill, Terry's physical education teacher and basketball coach at Mary Hill Junior High School, felt he was better suited to be a distance runner and encouraged him to take up the sport. Fox had no desire for cross-country running, but took it up because he respected and wanted to please his coach. He was determined to continue playing basketball, even if he was the last substitute on the team. Fox played only one minute in his grade-eight season but dedicated his summers to improving his play. He became a regular player in grade nine and earned a starting position in grade ten. In grade 12, he won his high school's athlete of the year award jointly with his best friend Doug Alward. Though he was initially unsure whether he wanted to go to university, Fox's mother convinced him to enrol at Simon Fraser University, where he studied kinesiology as a stepping stone to becoming a physical education teacher. He tried out for the junior varsity basketball team, earning a spot ahead of more talented players due to his determination. On November 12, 1976, as Fox was driving to the family home at Morrill Street in Port Coquitlam, he became distracted by nearby bridge construction, and crashed into the back of a pickup truck. While his car was left undriveable, Fox emerged with only a sore right knee. He again felt pain in December, but chose to ignore it until the end of basketball season. By March 1977, the pain had intensified and he finally went to a hospital, where he was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a form of cancer that often starts near the knees. Fox believed his car accident weakened his knee and left it vulnerable to the disease, though his doctors argued there was no connection. He was told that his leg had to be amputated, he would require chemotherapy treatment, and that recent medical advances meant he had a 50-percent chance of survival. Fox learned that two years before, the figure would have been only 15 percent; the improvement in survival rates impressed on him the value of cancer research. With the help of an artificial leg, Fox was walking three weeks after the amputation. He then progressed to playing golf with his father. Doctors were impressed with Fox's positive outlook, stating it contributed to his rapid recovery. He endured sixteen months of chemotherapy and found the time he spent in the British Columbia Cancer Control Agency facility difficult as he watched fellow cancer patients suffer and die from the disease. Fox ended his treatment with new purpose: he felt he owed his survival to medical advances and wished to live his life in a way that would help others find courage. In the summer of 1977, Rick Hansen, working with the Canadian Wheelchair Sports Association, invited Fox to try out for his wheelchair basketball team. Although he was undergoing chemotherapy treatments at the time, Fox's energy impressed Hansen. Less than two months after learning how to play the sport, Fox was named a member of the team for the national championship in Edmonton. He won three national titles with the team, and was named an all-star by the North American Wheelchair Basketball Association in 1980. In the following months, Fox received multiple chemotherapy treatments; however, the disease continued to spread. As his condition worsened, Canadians hoped for a miracle and Pope John Paul II sent a telegram saying that he was praying for Fox.[Doctors turned to experimental interferon treatments, though their effectiveness against osteogenic sarcoma was unknown. He suffered an adverse reaction to his first treatment, but continued the program after a period of rest. Fox was re-admitted to the Royal Columbian Hospital in New Westminster on June 19, 1981, with chest congestion and developed pneumonia. He fell into a coma and died at 4:35 a.m. PDT on June 28, 1981, with his family by his side. The Government of Canada ordered flags across the country lowered to half mast, an unprecedented honour that was usually reserved for statesmen. Addressing the House of Commons, Trudeau said, "It occurs very rarely in the life of a nation that the courageous spirit of one person unites all people in the celebration of his life and in the mourning of his death ... We do not think of him as one who was defeated by misfortune but as one who inspired us with the example of the triumph of the human spirit over adversity". His funeral in Port Coquitlam was attended by 40 relatives and 200 guests, and broadcast on national television; hundreds of communities across Canada also held memorial services, a public memorial service was held on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, and Canadians again overwhelmed Cancer Society offices with donations.
Fox remains a prominent figure in Canadian folklore. His determination united the nation; people from all walks of life lent their support to his run and his memory inspires pride in all regions of the country. A 1999 national survey named him as Canada's greatest hero, and he finished second to Tommy Douglas in the 2004 Canadian Broadcasting Corporation program The Greatest Canadian. Fox's heroic status has been attributed to his image as an ordinary person attempting a remarkable and inspirational feat. Others have argued that Fox's greatness derives from his audacious vision, his determined pursuit of his goal, his ability to overcome challenges such as his lack of experience and the very loneliness of his venture. As Fox's advocate on The Greatest Canadian, media personality Sook-Yin Lee compared him to a classic hero, Phidippides, the runner who delivered the news of the Battle of Marathon before dying, and asserted that Fox "embodies the most cherished Canadian values: compassion, commitment, perseverance". She highlighted the juxtaposition between his celebrity, brought about by the unforgettable image he created, and his rejection of the trappings of that celebrity.Typically amongst Canadian icons, Fox is an unconventional hero, admired but not without flaws. An obituary in the Canadian Family Physician emphasized his humanity and noted that his anger – at his diagnosis, at press misrepresentations and at those he saw as encroaching on his independence – spoke against ascribing sainthood for Fox, and thus placed his achievements within the reach of all. In September 2013, Dr. Jay Wunder, a sarcoma specialist at Mount Sinai Hospital, Toronto, noted that survival rates for osteosarcoma have increased dramatically since Fox's death. Most patients "get limb-sparing or limb-reconstructive surgery. Now the cure rate's almost up to 80 per cent in younger patients. In older patients it's more like 70 per cent. ... So that's a pretty big turnaround in a couple of decades." These advances in treatment might be partly attributable to the $650 million raised since Terry Fox started his Marathon of Hope. Fox expressed a robust attitude to his situation: he refused to regard himself as disabled, and would not allow anyone to pity him, telling a Toronto radio station that he found life more "rewarding and challenging" since he had lost his leg. His feat helped redefine Canadian views of disability and the inclusion of the disabled in society. Fox's actions increased the visibility of people with disabilities, and in addition influenced the attitudes of those with disabilities, by showing them disability portrayed in a positive light. Rick Hansen commented that the run challenged society to focus on ability rather than disability. "What was perceived as a limitation became a great opportunity. People with disabilities started looking at things differently. They came away with huge pride", he wrote. In contrast, the narrative surrounding Fox has been critiqued as illustrating the media's focus on stereotyped portrayals of the heroic and extraordinary achievements of people with disabilities, rather than more mundane accomplishments.Actor Alan Toy noted "Sure, it raised money for cancer research and sure it showed the human capacity for achievement. But a lot of disabled people are made to feel like failures if they haven't done something extraordinary. They may be bankers or factory workers – proof enough of their usefulness to society. Do we have to be 'supercrips' in order to be valid? And if we're not super, are we invalid?" The media's idealization of Fox has also been critiqued for emphasizing an individualistic approach to illness and disability, in which the body is a machine to be mastered, rather than the social model of disability, where societal attitudes and barriers to inclusion play a prominent role in determining who is disabled.
^ I left-out his Marathon of Hope and the Terry Fox Run on purpose. It will be a separate post. There are not many people (especially those so young) that can say they did so much in their life, but Terry Fox did. ^