To say Terry Fox faced adversity on his original Marathon of Hope would be an understatement.
The 22-year-old curly-haired B.C. native was essentially running a marathon a day on a prosthetic leg, while unbeknown to him cancer continued to spread through his body. So perhaps, at least on some level, it was somewhat fitting that the 40th anniversary of his historic run was made possible only by determined efforts from volunteers across Canada.
Undoubtedly there were times when it looked like this year’s run would have to be shelved due to COVID-19. A typical run would see hundreds, or in some cases thousands, of community members coming together to celebrate before embarking on their walk, run or ride. Here in Greater Napanee the turnout has remained steady as the tradition has survived several ups and downs over the decades. Fox’s original run faced similar doubts, albeit under much different circumstances.
Many of those close to him questioned his ability to run from St. John’s, NFLD to Victoria, B.C. given his health. Never one to back down from a challenge, Fox pushed through, departing from the shores of the Atlantic Ocean on April 12, 1980. Perhaps an omen of things to come, the very first day of the run was said to have been met with high winds, a downpour and snowstorm. Just like Fox, the 2020 run found a way to meet the challenge. Organizers were forced to get a little creative, opting to have a ‘virtual’ run. Participants weren’t able to gather in large groups, but the spirit of the run was very much alive on Sunday. Families and friends across town, and across this great country, still managed to travel at their own speed, raising much needed money for cancer research.
As has been said many times over the last few weeks, the arrival of COVID-19 didn’t mean the need to find a cure for cancer suddenly disappeared. While the new virus has stolen the headlines for the last 10 months, cancer continues to take an average of 83,300 Canadian lives per year, according to the Canadian Cancer Society. Ask just about anyone and odds are they’ll know someone who saw their life cut short to cancer. For myself it was an aunt, Ruth Prudhomme, who was in her 50s when she passed in 2009. Her story is an all-too-familiar one for too many Canadians. An otherwise healthy woman who was blindsided by a diagnosis and within a year she had succumbed to it. Research has come along way since Fox’s day and even in the 11 years since my aunt’s passing. The need to find a cure remains just as important as major breakthroughs could be just a few years away.
Like all charities, those dedicated to fighting cancer will take a hit this year due to the pandemic. Fortunately the year won’t be a total loss thanks to the ingenuity of local Terry Fox Run organizers and participants who did their part to carry on Fox’s dream. Though cancer forced him to halt his run before he could make it to the Pacific, his brave attempt has sparked a movement that’s still going strong after 40 years.