Bluffton School was honored to have a visit from Terry Fox’s brother, Fred last week.
His visit brought home the poignant story of the young athlete who died at the age of 22.
In a deeply moving tribute to his brother, Fox told students, staff and former teachers an incredible story of strength and endurance in the face of a devastating illness.
Terry Fox was diagnosed with cancer at the age of 18.
“We were only 14 months apart,” he said. “He was devastated when he found out.”
However, it wasn’t long before his devastation turned into a trait he was well known for; determination. Terry was determined to make a difference.
While his brother was was growing up his determination had been evident from a very early age, said Fox.
During his presentation Fred relayed to the students several stories about his sibling’s determination to succeed even when the odds were stacked against him.
When he took up basketball in Grade 8, he persisted in playing, even though his phys ed teacher suggested he take up another sport because of his height.
However, the teen proved him wrong. He was selected for the team by Grade 9 and in Grade 12, he and his best friend Doug Alward were selected as co-athletes of the year.
Terry Fox went on to play university basketball at the Simon Fraser University where he was studying kinesiology.
But, his dream of becoming a physical education teacher was cut short when he was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a bone cancer which resulted in the amputation of his right leg six inches above the knee. He was told chances of surviving the cancer were fifty per cent.
But, even though the young man saw his future take a completely different turn that what he had planned and hoped for, his concern did not lie with himself, but with the sufferings of other cancer patients.
Two years after his diagnosis, he began an intense and painful training for his marathon and ran more than 5,000 kilometres. He also successfully completed a 30 kilometre marathon in Prince George, BC.
“He finished last, but he finished and that was what he wanted to do; just finish,” said Fred.
On April 12, 1980, Fox began his ‘Marathon of Hope.’ He dipped his artificial foot in the Atlantic Ocean and started off. During the first few days he faced strong winds and torrential rains and blisters.
But still he ran.
He ran even when he became disheartened with the low donations, but enthusiasm and encouragement eventually began to follow him.
After passing through Ontario, he was introduced to the governor general and the prime minster.
In Toronto he was well received and honoured at the Nathan Phillips Square.
Eventually the relentless running affected him and he suffered with shin splits, inflamed knee, tendinitis, cyst formation and dizziness.
But still he kept on.
On Sept. 1, he suffered severe chest pans and coughing bouts and was taken to the hospital.
The cancer had spread to his lungs.
His ‘marathon of hope spanned 143 days during which he covered 5,373 kilometres. The event raised $24.17 million for cancer research.
The race has been going on for 36 years and raised millions of dollars for cancer research.
“Terry never thought of himself as a hero,” said Fred Fox.
“I am not a dreamer, and I am not saying this will initiate any kind of definitive answer or cure for cancer. But I believe in miracles, I have to.” Terry Fox
Former Bluffton teacher Bruce Beck, who attended the function, began the Terry Fox Run at the school 37 years ago in honor of his mother who was diagnosed with breast cancer.
“It feels good to come back,” said Beck, noting he is proud of the school and the tradition of the run it has maintained over the years.