More than 43 years after Terry Fox finished what was supposed to be a cross-Canada race, his older brother Fred crossed the finish line at the Terry Fox Run in Winnipeg, a city his little brother never reached in his Marathon of Hope.
“Winnipeg is pretty special,” said Fox, whose family was originally from the city.
“I really wanted to get here and Winnipeg was preparing for Terry’s arrival,” he continued, adding that he had seen some of the signs made to greet his brother in 1980.
“It’s a shame Terry didn’t make it this far, but it’s better to know that the people of Winnipeg – people from all over the province – are carrying on Terry’s dream.”
Terry Fox was just 18 years old when he was diagnosed with osteogenic sarcoma, a cancer that led to the amputation of his leg above the knee.
“He did some research and found out that there wasn’t a lot of money going into cancer research,” Fox’s older brother said. “During his chemotherapy treatments he decided that one day he would do something about it.”
A few years later, the young Fox, who at the time was living in Port Coquitlam, about 30 kilometers east of Vancouver, began his run in St. John’s on April 12, 1980. He surpassed his goal of raising the equivalent of 1 dollar for every Canadian before he died on June 28, 1981. To date more than $850 million has been raised through annual community races in Canada and around the world.
“It’s changed the whole landscape of how cancer research is viewed in this country,” said Fred Fox, fan relations manager for the Terry Fox Foundation.
“We have some of the best researchers in the world today because of what Terry started in 1980. Lives have been changed, people are surviving their cancer diagnosis and living longer, being with their families longer than ever before.”
‘A super hero’
“He was a superhero,” exclaimed cancer survivor Annie Macgregor, who participates in the Winnipeg Terry Fox Run every year.
“I really connect with Terry and everything he’s done because his research (the dollars that went into it) saved my life.”
Macgregor said he had two forms of leukemia when he was six years old. She is now a mother of two children and since then she has not had cancer.
“I bring my whole family here and they are inspired by it too,” he said.
Macgregor said his team raised about $2,800 this year for the Terry Fox Foundation.
“Every time we’re fighting, he’s a reminder that you can, right?” he said, as he stretched for the run.
Continuing with your dream
Fred Fox said he wishes his brother could see the movement he inspired.
“Terry could never have imagined that 43 years later, people would continue their dream in communities across Canada,” he said.
Fox recalls the poignant moment when his brother was forced to stop his run, while navigating remote stretches of road with a prosthetic leg considered primitive by today’s standards.
“It was very emotional to see Terry, especially during those long mountainous days in northern Ontario,” he said.
“We knew he wasn’t having the best of days, he was suffering from a small ankle injury,” Fox said, looking down as he remembered the last leg of his brother’s trip.
“When I was with him near Wawa, he had a little cough.”
The cancer had spread to Terry Fox’s lungs and he died the following summer.
“We thought maybe it was a cold, but we didn’t know. Twelve days later, he had to stop running in Thunder Bay.”
Leaving a legacy
Fox is pleased to see that people, born decades after his brother, continue to raise funds, especially children.
Eight-year-old Kemsley Braun headed straight to Fox during Sunday’s race to take a photo.
“I thought it would be special to meet Fred,” Braun said, adding that he has been learning about Terry Fox in school.
“He decided to do something really good for people who had cancer,” Braun said.
Fox said his brother would have loved to see the legacy he left behind.
“His passing, the sacrifice he made, he would have said, ‘If that’s what it takes to be where we are today with cancer research,’ he would have been satisfied with that.”
Organizers of the Terry Fox Run in Winnipeg said they hoped to surpass their goal of raising $60,000 this year for cancer research.