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Who was Terry Fox

Early Life

Terry Fox was born on July 28, 1958, in Winnipeg, Manitoba, to Rolland,a switch man for Canadian National Railway and Betty Fox. His family moved to Surrey, British Columbia, in 1966, and in 1968 settled in Port Coquitlam.

As a child Fox was an enthusiastic athlete, playing soccer, rugby and baseball.  After graduating from Mary Hill Junior High School,he enrolled at Simon Fraser University, where he studied kinesiology as a stepping stone to becoming a physical education teacher.There he tried out for the junior varsity basketball team and earned himself a spot.

On November 12, 1976, as Fox was driving to the family home at Morrill Street in Port Coquitlam,he crashed into the back of a pickup truck but was lucky to emerge with only a sore right knee.

On March 1977,after being constantly in pain due to his knee, he went to  hospital where he was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a form of cancer that often starts near the knees. His leg had to be amputated and he would require chemotherapy treatment.

With the help of an artificial leg, Fox was walking three weeks after the amputation. After sixteen months of chemotherapy,he felt like he had found a 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.

The Marathon of Hope

In the summer of 1977, Rick Hansen, working with the Canadian Wheelchair Sports Association, invited Fox to try out for his wheelchair basketball team. 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 also won three national titles and,in 1980,was named an all-star by the North American Wheelchair Basketball Association.

The night before his cancer surgery, Fox had been given an article about Dick Traum, the first amputee to complete the New York City Marathon.This inspired him to want to compete in the hope of increasing cancer awareness.

On October 15, 1979, Fox sent a letter to the Canadian Cancer Society,appealing for funding.Although skeptical,the Cancer Society agreed to support Fox once he had acquired sponsors and requested he get a medical certificate from a heart specialist stating that he was fit to attempt the run.

Fox was diagnosed with left ventricular hypertrophy – an enlarged heart – a condition commonly associated with athletes. Although they did not consider his condition a significant concern,doctors warned him of the potential risk that he could face.

A second letter was sent to several corporations seeking donations for a vehicle and running shoes, and to cover the other costs.Adidas donated running shoes, while The Ford Motor Company donated a camper van and Imperial Oil contributed fuel .

Insistent that nobody was to profit from his run,Fox turned away any company that requested he endorse their products and refused any donation that carried conditions.

The Marathon began on April 12, 1980, when Fox dipped his right leg in the Atlantic Ocean near St John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador, and filled two large bottles with ocean water. He intended to keep one as a souvenir and pour the other into the Pacific Ocean upon completing his journey at Victoria, British Columbia.
Fox was supported on his run by Doug Alward, who drove the van and cooked meals.Throughout the trip, Fox frequently expressed his anger and frustration to those he saw as impeding the run, and he fought regularly with Alward. By the time they reached Nova Scotia, they were barely on speaking terms, and it was arranged for Fox’s brother Darrell, then 17, to join them.
On June 22,Fox arrived in Montreal, one-third of the way through his 8,000-kilometre  journey, having collected over $200,000 in donations.Around this time, his run caught the attention of Isadore Sharp who was the founder and CEO of Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts.
Sharp not only offered food and accommodation at his hotels en route but also pledged $2 a mile [to the run] and persuaded close to 1,000 other corporations to do the same. Sharp’s encouragement persuaded Fox to continue with the Marathon of Hope.
Fox stayed in Montreal for a few extra days so that he could arrive in Ottawa just in time for Canada day,which would aid his fundraising efforts.

Fox crossed into Ontario at the town of Hawkesbury on the last Saturday in June. There,he was met by a thousands of residents who lined the streets to cheer him on and a brass band.The Ontario Provincial Police also escorted him throughout the province.

On his arrival in Ottawa, Fox met Governor General Ed Schreyer and Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau and was the guest of honor at numerous sporting events in the city.

On July 11, a crowd of 10,000 people met Fox in Toronto, where he was honored in Nathan Phillips Square.The Cancer Society estimated it collected $100,000 in donations that day alone.

As Fox’s fame grew, the Cancer Society scheduled him to attend more functions and give more speeches.Fox attempted to accommodate any request that he believed would raise money, no matter how far out of his way it took him.

However,the physical demands of running a marathon every day took their toll on Fox’s body. Apart from the rest days in Montreal taken at the request of the Cancer Society, he refused to take a day off, even on his 22nd birthday.

He frequently suffered shin splints and an inflamed knee. He developed cysts on his stump and experienced dizzy spells. At one point, he suffered a soreness in his ankle that would not go away. Although he feared he had developed a stress fracture, he ran for three more days before seeking medical attention.To his relief, it was tendonitis that could be treated with painkillers.

On September 1, outside Thunder Bay, Fox was forced to stop briefly after he suffered an intense coughing fit and chest pains. A few miles later after trying to continue with his race, Fox caved and asked Alward to drive him to a hospital.

The next day, he held a tearful press conference during which he announced that his cancer had returned and spread to his lungs. He was forced to end his run after 143 days and 5,373 kilometres. Fox refused offers to complete the run in his stead, stating that he wanted to complete his marathon himself.

Fox had raised $1.7 million (equivalent to $5 million in 2018) by the time he was forced to abandon the Marathon. A week after his run ended, the CTV Television Network organized a nationwide telethon in support of Fox and the Canadian Cancer Society.
The five-hour event raised $10.5 million (equivalent to $32 million in 2018). Donations continued throughout the winter, and by the following April, over $23 million had been raised (equivalent to $62 million in 2018).


In September 1980, he was invested in a special ceremony as a Companion of the Order of Canada; The  youngest person to be so honored.The Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia named him to the Order of the Dogwood, the province’s highest award.

Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame commissioned a permanent exhibit, and Fox was named the winner of the Lou Marsh Award for 1980 as the nation’s top athlete. He was also named Canada’s 1980 News maker of the Year. 


In the following months, Fox received multiple chemotherapy treatments. 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, a month before his 23rd birthday with his family by his side.

In his honor,the Government of Canada ordered flags across the country lowered to half mast. 

His funeral in Port Coquitlam was attended by 40 relatives and 200 guests and was broadcast on national television.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. 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


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