April 12, 1980
Every journey begins with a single step.
Terry Fox’s journey actually began earlier. He was diagnosed with osteosarcoma (bone cancer) three years earlier, which lead to amputation of his right leg above the knee. Three years later he launched his Marathon of Hope.
The Canadian Museum of History (formerly Civilization) currently has an exhibit about Terry Fox and his Marathon of Hope. I had the opportunity to go on a tour a few weeks ago with my two oldest daughters at the invitation of the museum. The museum collaborated with the Fox family to put together this exhibit.
Out of all the amazing artefacts from Terry Fox’s Marathon it is this jug of water that resonates with me the most. At the start of the Marathon of Hope he dipped his leg in the Atlantic Ocean and collected this water. He intended to pour it in to the Pacific Ocean at the end of his journey. It is this jug that represents his legacy. It is the thought of this jug that has floated in and out of my head over the past few weeks since touring this exhibit.
The Museum did a fantastic job of capturing Fox and his mission, not to mention his impact. All of those things are excellent. I have included a variety of photos of the exhibit below. It was amazing to see his artificial legs and the van and the worn out shoes. The videos and quotes from him and about him were all wonderful to see.
I would have liked to walk into a darkened room, with this jug of water sitting in the middle and illuminated surrounded with mats to sit on and contemplate the water and what it means.
Marathon of Hope
Terry Fox was an admirable young man with a passion to make a change. He was driven to make things better for other people by raising funds to research the very cancer that had taken his leg. He trained for months and he ran through what must have been excruciating pain. He believed so strongly in himself and his mission that he ignored all the naysayers and the initial lack of support. Eventually he caught the attention of the media and the nation.
I was days away from turning five when he started his epic journey. He has been omnipresent for most of my life. I feel like I have always known who Terry Fox was and what he stood for. I may have memories of watching him on TV when I was a kid. It is hard to distinguish the footage I have seen over the years with lived experience from my childhood.
For whatever we lose (like a you or a me),
It’s always our self we find in the sea.
It is easy to conjure up images in my mind of Terry Fox running along the side of the road – in various geographies – with his unique loping run. I had always assumed it was because of the way the leg fit his stump or he was running that way to mitigate the pain. It turns out that it had to do with the amount of time it took for the spring in his artificial leg to reset.
He was always followed by the Marathon of Hope van. It was incredible to see this van sitting in the exhibit.
By September 1, 1980, Terry Fox ran his last miles. After 143 days and 3339 miles he was forced to stop when his cancer returned. That day the road was lined with people encouraging him forward, encouraging him to his destination for the day. People who saw the hope he represented.
Legacy of Hope
Terry Fox set out with a goal to raise $1m through his run and along the way that became a goal to raise $1 for every Canadian, which at the time would have been $23m. This objective was achieved before his death in June 1981.
The first Terry Fox run was held in September 1981 and raised $3.5m. I’m not sure if it was that run or a subsequent year, but I remember standing at the finishing line cheering my mum as she finished her run. I ran in Terry Fox runs at school as a kid and kids and adults ever since have been running and walking and cycling to raise funds for the Terry Fox Foundation. 35 years later, it is my daughters who are running to raise funds for cancer research. People participate in the run in dozens of countries and more than $600m have been raised to support Terry’s mission.
People were so touched by Terry’s journey that they wrote letters to him by the hundreds. These letters are on display as part of the exhibit and are also scanned in to a searchable database so that visitors can view digital version of the letters and perhaps even find one written by someone they know. Letters of hope and support.
What do I see when I look at that jug of water?
I see Terry and his legacy.
I see the energy of the surf;
I see the relentless determination of the waves;
More than anything though, I see the ripples.
The Terry Fox Exhibit is open at the Canadian Museum of History until January 24, 2016.