He dipped his artificial leg in the Atlantic Ocean on a frigid April day back in 1980. Every morning he rose early to run his quota of miles. At first, no one knew who this figure was running along the side of the highway. Some Canadians waved; other honked; and some even ran him off the road. He made his way through the Maritime provinces, not making too much of a mark. In Quebec, he became discouraged because he did not get a very warm reception. The Quebec Provincial Police even asked him to stay off of the main highways. He asked: "Don't people in Quebec get cancer, too?"
Reaching Ontario, his campaign really picked up steam. Pierre Trudeau shook his hand in Ottawa. Daryl Sittler hugged him in Toronto. The Toronto Argonauts let him kick the ball at one of their games. No longer a lone figure on the side of the road, he was now escorted by the Ontario Provincial Police. With the goal of raising 24 million dollars for cancer research, he hoped that every Canadian would donate $1. As he ran through Southern Ontario, it seemed within his reach. His face sunburnt and wrinkled, he pounded the pavement day after day to conquer the disease that had taken his leg. The more people told him he couldn't do it, the more determined he was to prove them wrong.
And then, as he approached Thunder Bay, he started to get sick. Each day became more of a struggle. He had a nagging cough. In Lake Superior, he took a dip with another cancer survivor, a young boy who had lost his hair. Shortly after, he was forced to abandon his run and fly back to his native British Columbia. The Marathon of Hope might have ended, but his cause continued and the Cancer Society continued to raise money. Diagnosed with lung cancer, he underwent chemotherapy, determined to beat the disease once again. By now, everybody knew his name. I'll never forget seeing the Canadian flags at half mast at the end of June 1981. It's been 30 years since his death and yet he is not forgotten. The Marathon of Hope is held every year; both young and old participate. He fought a valiant fight to bring cancer into the limelight. He ran close to two-thirds of the way across Canada. He is a Canadian hero. Thank you, Terry Fox, for your fearless sacrifice.
Photo courtesy har.scdsb.on.ca