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In December 1976, during his first year playing basketball at Simon Fraser University, Fox notices a new pain in his right knee. He thinks it is just a cartilage problem, but in early March he wakes up one morning to find he can’t stand. On 4 March 1977, he learns it is a tumour. He is diagnosed with osteogenic sarcoma, which often starts in the knee and spreads through the muscles and tendons.
High School Athlete of the Year
In Grade 12, Fox and his friend Doug Alward are co-winners of the Athlete of the Year Award at their high school in Port Coquitlam. Terry is also an excellent student, graduating with one B on an otherwise straight-A report card.
Fox Writes to the Canadian Cancer Society
His letter sums up his motivation for the Marathon of Hope: “The night before my amputation, my former basketball coach brought me a magazine with an article on an amputee who ran in the New York Marathon. It was then I decided to meet this new challenge head on and not only overcome my disability, but conquer it in such a way that I could never look back and say it disabled me… [A]s I went through the 16 months of the physically and emotionally draining ordeal of chemotherapy, I was rudely awakened by the feelings that surrounded and coursed through the cancer clinic. There were faces with the brave smiles, and the ones who had given up smiling. There were feelings of hopeful denial, and the feelings of despair. My quest would not be a selfish one. I could not leave knowing these faces and feelings would still exist, even though I would be set free from mine. Somewhere the hurting must stop... and I was determined to take myself to the limit for this cause.” In addition to the Canadian Cancer Society and the War Amputations of Canada, Fox also secures sponsorship from Imperial Oil, Adidas, the Ford Motor Company and others.
Terry Fox Meets Rick Hansen
After meeting Terry Fox at a gym, Rick Hansen asks him to join the Vancouver Cable Cars wheelchair basketball team. Fox practices hard as he learns a different way to play basketball, all while undergoing chemotherapy. By the end of the summer, he is chosen for the team that competes at the 1977 national wheelchair basketball championships. Fox plays with the Cable Cars from 1977 to 1980, winning the national championship in 1978 and 1979. In the 1979–80 season, he is selected to play on the all-star team of the North American Wheelchair Basketball Association.
Fox rear-ends a truck while driving on the highway. His car is a wreck, but Fox escapes without visible injury. The only problem is a sore right knee, which he assumes he hurt during the crash.
Fox begins training for the Marathon of Hope. His prosthetist, Ben Speicher, modifies his prosthesis, which is designed for walking, so that it can better withstand the impact of running. Even with the modifications, it is still awkward and uncomfortable. By the end of his 14 months of training, Fox will have run more than 5,000 km.
Prince George Race
Fox competes in a race in Prince George, British Columbia. Although he had originally planned to run in the eight-and-a-half-mile race, he instead runs the 17-mile (27 km) version with friend Doug Alward and brother Darrell. Terry finished last, but only 10 minutes behind the final two-legged runner. Shortly after the race, Fox tells his parents of his plan to run across Canada. His mother, Betty, thinks it is crazy. His father, Rolly, simply asks when he plans to start.
Leg is Amputated
When Fox is only 18, doctors amputate his right leg 15 cm above the knee. The night before his surgery, Fox’s high school coach, Terri Fleming, gives him a Runner’s World article about Dick Traum, an amputee who had run the New York City Marathon. The following morning, Fox shows the article to nurse Judith Ray. “Someday I’m going to do something like that,” he tells her. He soon begins physiotherapy and a 16-month chemotherapy program at the British Columbia Cancer Control Agency in Vancouver.
Marathon of Hope Begins (0 km)
Fox begins his cross-country Marathon of Hope, dipping his artificial leg in the Atlantic Ocean and setting out from St. John’s, Newfoundland. He takes a bottle of water from the ocean, which he plans to empty into the Pacific when he dips his leg there at the end of his run.
Bristol, New Brunswick (2,214 km)
From Terry’s journal: “The first few miles were the usual torture. My foot was blistered bad, but my stump wasn’t too bad.… Today I had tremendous support. Everybody honked and waved. People all over looked out of their homes and stores and cheered me on.”
Highway 185, Quebec (2,426 km)
Fox writes in his journal, “The only people here who know about the run are the truckers and the out-of-province people. Everyone else wants to stop and give me a lift.” Fox would later complain that drivers in Quebec, where the run was barely publicized, were “continually forcing me off the road. I was actually honked off once… It is so frustrating.” In Ontario, the provincial police begin to escort Fox as he runs.
Near Charlottetown, PEI (1,699 km)
Fox writes in his journal, “There were lots of people out to cheer me on and support me. Incredible! … I had another dizzy spell during the run. Still freezing, but I wasn’t wearing sweats so people could see my leg. I’d run just over twenty-eight miles.”
Hamilton, Ontario (3,622 km)
Gord Dickson, the 1960 Canadian Marathon Champion, gives Terry his gold medal as a gift. A throng of teenagers swarms Terry after he gives a brief speech at the Royal Botanical Gardens.
Thunder Bay, Ontario, Marathon of Hope Ends
After running 5,373 km in 143 days, and having raised around $2 million, Fox stops his run in Thunder Bay due to chest pains. X-rays later reveal the cancer has spread to his lungs. Before returning to Port Coquitlam, he tells a press conference: “I'm gonna do my very best. I'll fight. I promise I won't give up.”