The spirit, er, story of Terry Fox gives me hope

I missed the Terry Fox experience the first time around.

In March, 1980, before Terry started running, I left for a six-month student exchange in México. I returned to Canada on September 5, 1980, four days after he stopped running. When I settled into my seat on my Air Canada return flight from Mexico City, the flight attendant handed me a complimentary copy of the Toronto Sun. The front page carried a picture of Terry Fox. I read his name and thought:

“Who’s Terry Fox?”

Since I had no first-hand experience with Terry, I didn’t immediately develop admiration for him. Then, in 2005 I had to opportunity to write a script for the Royal Canadian Mint about the commemorative Terry Fox dollar coin. To write the script I had to research Terry, and the more I read, the more impressed I became.

To raise money for cancer research he ran, with a prosthetic leg, the equivalent of a marathon every day for 143 consecutive days.  We admire this inhuman physical feat, but more than that, we admire his selflessness and his steely mental and emotional strength.

He completed 5,373 kilometres before cancer appeared in his lungs. Terry’s body stopped running that day, but his spirit is still moving, carrying messages of inspiration and hope.

I choose to use the word “story” to describe the something more in our world to make the concept accessible and agreeable to everyone. Those who balk at “soul” or “spirit” can climb on board with a story. Terry Fox is a perfect illustration of this idea. Terry Fox did not complete his Marathon of Hope in a physical sense—the undeniable science of cancer in his lungs ended his quest—but his story runs a marathon of hope every day still.

Terry Fox’s body is no longer with us, but his story sure is.

In my office I have a copy of Maxine Trottier’s book, Terry Fox: A Story of Hope propped up on display. When little things get me down, it takes one glance at the picture of Terry on the cover to slam my petty little concerns back into perspective and to give me the will to keep plugging. If he does that for me, I imagine we can multiply that many times over for people facing cancer treatments.

Across the country, in communities and in schools, Terry Fox fundraising activities fill up the weekends of September. The runs and other special events pay tribute to the remarkable mental, physical and emotional feat of Terry Fox.Almost $500 million has been raised worldwide for cancer research through the Terry Fox Foundation. Countless lives have been saved or prolonged.

Whether you choose to use the word “story” or “spirit,” Terry Fox has a shining, powerful one.

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