Sunday, September 16, 2012

Continuing the Marathon of Hope

It was April, 1980.  A 21-year-old young man dipped his prosthesis into the Atlantic Ocean in St. John's, Newfoundland to symbolize the beginning of his cross-country run, in the hopes of raising money for cancer research.

By the time Terry Fox had reached Ontario, there was a media frenzy over his "Marathon of Hope". Canadians were glued to the nightly news, awaiting updates on the incredible journey Terry was making.  We watched with awe the film clips of him running.  Terry had lost one leg to osteosarcoma (bone cancer) and ran with determined effort with one strong leg and a prosthesis on the other.  His gait became iconic.  Incredibly, Terry ran 26 miles daily, the equivalent of one marathon every single day.

I was a preteen at the time.  I remember talking with friends, all of us anticipating Terry's arrival in our hometown of Dryden, Ontario, eager to finally catch a glimpse of this new Canadian hero.  He would be there in four weeks, three weeks, two and a half.

And then the sad news that day in early September, 1980, that just outside Thunder Bay, Ontario, Terry had to end his run.  The cancer was back, this time in his lungs.  I remember watching a news clip of Terry choking back tears as he was loaded into ambulance, saying, "If there's any way I can finish it, I will."

Fast forward to summer 2012.  Over the course of a couple of months, our circle of family and friends was impacted by cancer so greatly that it seemed statistically impossible.  Dan's grandmother passes away from cancer in June.  The husband of a dear friend is diagnosed with throat cancer.  A friend from Doha discovers she has breast cancer.  And Nick's friend and Doha hockey teammate, at the heartbreaking age of 14, is diagnosed with bone cancer, the same kind that Terry Fox had.

Through their experiences, I learned more than I thought I ever wanted to know about chemotherapy, radiation, and post-operative complications.  But I also learned a great deal from these friends about peace, resilience, and hope.

Terry Fox
Terry Fox died of cancer on June 28, 1981, at the age of 22.  His Marathon of Hope inspired a nation to continue in his footsteps, and every September in Canada the Terry Fox Run is held in thousands of cities and towns across the country.  The run is now held in many other countries around the world, including annually in Qatar at the College of the North Atlantic in Doha (Qatar's 2012 TFR was held in February).  The organization that was founded in his name has raised over 600 million dollars worldwide to support cancer research.  Six.  Hundred.  Million.  That's money that has gone to research that has benefited cancer patients the world over, research that has most likely impacted the treatment of those I know:  Treatment for my friend with breast cancer.  Treatment for my friend with throat cancer.  Treatment for my young friend battling the same cancer that inspired Terry Fox to take up this cause.

Please consider taking part or supporting a team in a Terry Fox Run, wherever you are in the world.  For more information, visit the links below.  Make a donation.  Participate in a run.  Like them on Facebook.  Do whatever that thing is you do on Twitter.  Spread the word!

Terry Fox Foundation

Terry Fox International

Today, September 16,  is the annual Terry Fox Run in Canada.  It happens in a week when one friend returns to Doha cancer-free, and the outcome of another's surgery to remove the tumour in his leg was so amazingly wonderful that it brought us to tears.  Continue the marathon.  Hope carries on.

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