Six Million Dollar Man
September 1, 1980: The Marathon of Hope ends when Terry Fox can go no farther. Terry was born on July 28, 1958 in Winnipeg, Manitoba and raised near Vancouver on the west coast of Canada. He was an avid sports enthusiast and played soccer, rugby, baseball, basketball, and participated in competitive diving. He won many awards and medals. His friends and coaches were impressed by his stamina and endurance along with his willingness to improve his skills by hours and hours of practice.
He was involved in a car accident on November 12, 1976 in which he injured his right knee. The knee pain did not abate and in 1977 he was diagnosed with osteosarcoma; he attributed this to the accident but his doctors disagreed. The only treatment at the time was amputation of the limb. While being treated for his cancer, he noticed the intense suffering of others on the pediatric cancer ward. He was fitted with a prosthetic device for his amputated leg.
Terry wanted to raise $1 million for cancer research. Three years after losing his leg, now aged 21, Terry began his Marathon of Hope. He left St. John’s, Newfoundland on April 12 and within a month increased his goal to $24 million, $1 for every Canadian. Only one TV station filmed Terry’s start. He dipped his artificial leg into the Atlantic Ocean and headed west. By May, people were lining the streets as he pushed ever westward, raising cash to fund cancer research.
Terry’s run gathered huge crowds. At Thunder Bay, Ontario, 143 days and 3,339 miles later, Terry was forced to throw in the towel. His breathing was too labored to continue. X-rays revealed both lungs riddled with metastatic tumors. A telethon was immediately organized in the hope of raising the funds Terry desired. Lee Majors described him as “the real Six Million Dollar Man” at the event. He died on June 28, 1981 but his dream lives on. To date, over $360 million has been raised in his name for cancer research. Funding continues with a yearly marathon held at over 10,000 Run Sites around the world.
“I don’t feel that this is unfair. That’s the thing about cancer. I’m not the only one, it happens all the time to people. I’m not special. This just intensifies what I did. It gives it more meaning. It’ll inspire more people. I just wish people would realize that anything’s possible if you try; dreams are made possible if you try.”
“Some people can’t figure out what I’m doing. It’s not a walk-hop, it’s not a trot, it’s running, or as close as I can get to running, and it’s harder than doing it on two legs. It makes me mad when people call this a walk. If I was walking it wouldn’t be anything.”
“If you’ve given a dollar, you are part of the Marathon of Hope.”
“I’m not a dreamer, and I’m not saying this will initiate any kind of definitive answer or cure to cancer, but I believe in miracles. I have to.” – all from Terry Fox
This article first appeared at Examiner.com in 2009. Editor’s update: Before Terry underwent surgery, he received an article about Dick Traum, the first amputee to complete the New York City Marathon. Traum was a doctor and founder of the Achilles Track Club which is specifically for disabled athletes. He completed the New York City Marathon in 1976 and went on to finish a 100 km (62 mile) ultra event in Poland in the 1980s. He was inducted into the National Jewish Sports Hall of Fame in 2010. It was this man who inspired Terry Fox. Terry began a 14-month training program in order to be able to run his own marathon. Instead, he went much farther and raised far more money for cancer research. He had only managed to raise $1.7 million before being forced to quit, but his spirit lives on. In 2012 alone, his foundation was able to raise $26 million for cancer research.
Also on this day: Japan’s Great Earthquake – In 1923, the Great Kanto Earthquake rocks Japan.
Martha: R.I.P. – In 1914, the last passenger pigeon died.
Walls – In 1836, Narcissa Whitman arrived at Walla Walla Fort.