Mark Cornacchia Dr. Housel January 12, 2009 Essay #2 Terry Fox Few people in today’s modern society become a household name for traditional merits of heroism. Even fewer are remembered long after the spotlight of their accomplishments fade. In Canadian history, no name resonates closer to the word hero than Terry Fox and his marathon of hope. His innate sense of selflessness, and perseverance in the face of adversity has become Terry’s lasting legacy. Turning tragedy into opportunity, Terry inspired an entire nation, and reconnected our faith in the human spirit, showing the world that a hero can come in any form.
What started as a modest fundraiser, Terry’s marathon of hope gave Canada its own living hero, whose struggle evoked compassion, empathy, and a cause that is still alive today. Terrence Stanley Fox was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba on June 28, 1958 to his parents, Rolly and Betty Fox. The family relocated their home early in Terry’s childhood to Port Coquitlam, British Columbia, a suburb of Vancouver (Terry Fox Foundation). The first few years of Terry’s life played out with a common theme in place; he loved sports of all kinds, participating in organized soccer, rugby, baseball, and swimming.
Although he was never the biggest child, his parents always described their son as being “determined and tenacious” (Trottier 26). Rolly and Betty stressed good manners, and a respectful demeanor to each of their four children. They addressed elders formally at all times, practiced good table manners, and if they got a job, they were to be punctual and keep it. The children all started seasonal berry picking when they were nine or ten years old, and continued with it well into their teenage years (Terry Fox Foundation).
Betty also preached responsibility to her children, stating “everything wasn’t handed to them, they all had to learn to do for themselves” (Terry Fox Foundation). When the children entered adolescence, they bought their own school clothes, and later bought their own bikes and other recreational equipment. Even at a young age, Terry clearly had the intrinsic motivation and guidance from his parents that proved him to be mature beyond his years. Middle school years marked another set of characteristics to be mastered by Terry.
When they were in the eighth grade, both Terry and his best friend Doug Alward were noticed by the physical-education teacher at Mary Hill Junior High School, Bob McGill. While Doug had the natural ability, Terry was known as “the little guy who worked his rear off” (Terry Fox Foundation). Being small made most likely contributed to him being a shy introvert. In the big junior high desks, Terry was so short that his feet wouldn’t even touch the floor. Moreover, if a girl was to gaze his way, Terry would just “shy away” (Trottier 47).
Doug and Terry shared many common attributes; both being only about 5 feet tall, reclusive, and crazy for basketball (Terry Fox Foundation). Doug was a first-string player, while Terry was awful at the game. McGill suggested that Terry instead focus his efforts toward Cross-Country running. Terry had absolutely no passion for running, but decided to train for it anyway, out of the profound respect he had for Mcgill (Terry Fox Foundation). The runs were demanding, but Terry persevered, stretching his limits each time.
The most rewarding part of the run was always when Mcgill would welcome in Terry and the rest of the team from the run by congratulating them, saying “well done men”; this resonated within Terry long after those runs, being referred to as a man (Terry Fox Foundation). Terry still wanted to play basketball, and after three practices, McGill suggested he try wrestling. Terry ignored the coaches idea, however, and wanted to be a part of the team, even if he was the nineteenth player on a nineteen-man roster. His commitment was rewarded in his eyes, as he saw one minute of floor time in the entire season (Terry Fox Foundation).
Even when others would consider his efforts futile, Terry clearly found pride in the chase of a goal; a notion that would reoccur later in life. Terry wasn’t sure that he wanted to go to University, but Betty insisted he should; he enrolled at Simon Fraser University in part to please her (Trottier 73). He wanted to be a high school physical-education teacher, citing his own interactions with McGill as inspiration (Terry Fox Foundation). And since he enjoyed sports, it was a natural fit for Terry to choose kinesiology as his major.
Throughout high school, Terry kept honing his basketball skills, and was a semi-skilled, gutsy player by the time he was at SFU. His determination paid off, as he made the basketball team in his freshmen year. When Terry was only 18 years old, his active lifestyle came to a grinding halt, but his heroism was soon to be fully realized. After feeling pain in his right knee from a car accident, Terry was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a form of cancer that attacks the bone, and occurs in young men and women typically between ages ten and twenty-five (WebMD).
Terry was forced to have his right leg amputated six inches above the knee to prevent the spread of cancer. Immediately following the surgery, Rolly and Betty found their son lying in his bed trying to come to grips with his new situation. They had never seen him so down, knowing he would never be able to live the active lifestyle he became accustomed to (Trottier 152). While recovering in the hospital, Terry witnessed the immense suffering of other cancer patients, most of them young children.
Bed stricken, and finding he now had a lot of time on his hands, Terry read about a one-legged athlete who ran the New York City Marathon. Being a person who always loved a challenge, Terry said “I can do that” (Terry Fox Huminitarian Award Program). When his parents came to take him home, he informed them that he wouldn’t be returning to school. Instead, Terry decided that he would run across Canada, using a fitted prosthetic leg, to raise money for cancer research, calling his journey the marathon of hope (Terry Fox Foundation).
Terry’s ambition, inner drive, and other noteworthy attributes extended his reach far beyond a mere challenging run. Ultimately, it was Terry’s unselfishness that struck a chord with Canadians and unified them in an effort to help his cause. Betty remembers this characteristic with a fond memory. In December, 1980, before what turned out to be Terry’s last Christmas, he told his mother “I’ve raised millions of dollars, and I haven’t got a dollar to buy my family a Christmas present” (ESPN). An impromptu telethon helped raise ten million dollars for cancer research soon after Terry stopped his run.
On September 18, 1980, Governor-General Edward Schreyer present Terry with the Companion of the Order of Canada, the highest honor a citizen of Canada can receive. He was the youngest recipient of the award (Terry Fox Foundation). Today, the Terry Fox run takes place annually around the first week of September to celebrate Terry’s monumental accomplishments, and raise awareness for cancer research (Trottier 357). Works Cited Buchigrass, John. Terry Fox. ESPN. Bristol, Connecticut. 10 Sept. 2005. “Early Years. ” The Terry Fox Foundation. Ed. Darrell Fox. 12 Jan. 009 http://www. terryfoxrun. org/english/about%20terry%20fox/default. asp? s=1. “Fact Sheet. ” Terry Fox Humanitarian Award Program. Government of Canada. 8 Jan. 2009 http://www. terryfox. org/english/terryfacts. html. “Osteosarcoma and Malignant Fibrous Histiocytoma of Bone Treatment (PDQ®) – Description. ” WebMD – Better information. Better health. 2004. 8 Jan. 2009 http://www. webmd. com/cancer/tc/bone-cancer-osteosarcoma-and-bone-tumors-fibrous-histiocytoma-treatment-patient-information-nci. Trottier, Maxine. Terry Fox: A Story of Hope. Toronto: Scholastic Canada, 2005.