More than 43 years after Terry Fox finished a race that was supposed to cross Canada, his older brother Fred crossed the finish line at the Terry Fox Run in Winnipeg, a city his little brother never reached on his Marathon of Hope.
“Winnipeg is very special,” said Fox, whose family was originally from the city.
“He was so excited to come here and Winnipeg was preparing for Terry's arrival,” he continued, adding that he had seen some of the posters made welcoming his brother in 1980.
“It's a shame Terry didn't make it here, but it's better knowing that the people of Winnipeg – people across 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 there wasn't a lot of money going into cancer research,” Fox's older brother said. “He decided during his chemotherapy treatment that one day he would do something about it.”
A few years later, the younger Fox, then living in Port Coquitlam, about 30 kilometers east of Vancouver, started his run in St. John's on April 12, 1980. He exceeded his goal of collecting the equivalent of $1 from every Canadian before he died on June 28, 1981. To date, annual community runs in Canada and around the world have raised more than $850 million.
“He changed the entire landscape of cancer research in this country,” said Fred Fox, manager of supporter relations for the Terry Fox Foundation.
“We have some of the best researchers in the world today because Terry started in 1980. Life has changed, people are surviving their cancer diagnosis and living longer and being with their families longer than ever before.”
“He was a superhero,” exclaimed cancer survivor Annie Macgregor, who takes part in the Winnipeg Terry Fox Run every year.
“I feel a real connection to Terry and everything he did because his research – the dollars spent on it – saved my life.”
Macgregor said she suffered from two forms of leukemia at the age of six. Since then, she has been a mother of two and cancer-free.
“I bring my whole family here and they are inspired by him too,” she said.
Macgregor said her team raised about $2,800 for the Terry Fox Foundation this year.
“Every time we have trouble, it's a reminder that you can do it, right?” she said as she stretched for the race.
Continuation of his dream
Fred Fox said he wished his brother could see the movement he inspired.
“Terry could never have imagined that 43 years later people would be carrying on his dream in communities across Canada,” he said.
Fox recalls the poignant moment when his brother was forced to abandon his run as he crossed remote stretches of road with a prosthetic leg considered primitive by today's standards.
“It was very emotional seeing Terry, especially during those long hilly days in northern Ontario,” he said.
“We knew he wasn't exactly feeling well, he was suffering from a minor ankle injury,” Fox said, looking down as he recalled the final leg of his brother's journey.
“When I was with him near Wawa, he had a slight 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 abandon his run in Thunder Bay.”
Leave a legacy
Fox is pleased that people born decades after his brother continue to fundraise – especially children.
Eight-year-old Kemsley Braun ran straight to Fox during Sunday's run to take a photo.
“I thought it would be special to meet Fred,” Braun said, adding that he learned about Terry Fox in school.
“He decided to do something really good for people with cancer,” Braun said.
Fox said his brother would have been happy to see the legacy he left behind.
“His death, the sacrifice he made – he would have said, ‘If that's what it takes to get to where we are today with cancer research,' he would have been happy with that.”
Organizers of the Terry Fox Run in Winnipeg said they expect to exceed their goal of raising $60,000 for cancer research this year.