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Sketches of Canada for April 12th!

Canadian History for Kids: Terry Fox

April 12, 1980 – Terry Fox dips his artificial leg into the Atlantic to start his cross-country ‘Marathon of Hope’ .

This Canadian History for Kids exclusive, looks at an amazing Canadian, Terry Fox.

This Canadian History for Kids articles starts with how Terry Fox was born on July 28, 1958, in Winnipeg, Manitoba. His family moved to Surrey, British Columbia, in 1966, then settled in Port Coquitlam in 1968. His father recalled that as a young boy he was extremely competitive, noting that Terry hated to lose so much that he would continue at any activity until he succeeded.

He was an avid athlete, playing soccer, rugby and baseball but his true passion was for basketball. He became a regular player in grade nine and earned a starting position in grade ten. In grade 12, he won his high school’s athlete of the year award.

On November 12, 1976, as Fox was driving home to Port Coquitlam, he became distracted by nearby bridge construction, and crashed into the back of a pickup truck. Fox emerged from the accident with a sore right knee. By March 1977, the pain had increased and he finally went to a hospital, where he was diagnosed with a form of cancer that often starts near the knees. He was told that his leg had to be amputated, and that he would require chemotherapy treatment, and that recent medical advances meant he had a 50 percent chance of survival. Fox learned that two years before the figure would have been only 15 percent, and the improvement in survival rates impressed on him the value of cancer research.

With the help of an artificial leg, Fox was walking three weeks after the amputation. He endured sixteen months of chemotherapy and found the time he spent in the British
Columbia Cancer Control Agency facility difficult as he watched fellow cancer patients suffer and die from the disease. Fox ended his treatment with new purpose: he felt he owed his survival to medical advances and wished to live his life in a way that would help others find courage.

Before his cancer surgery, Fox had been given an article about Dick Traum, the first amputee to complete in the New York City Marathon. The article inspired him. He embarked on a long training program, telling his family he planned to compete in a marathon himself. This Canadian History for Kids article continues in August 1979, where Fox competed in a marathon in Prince George, British Columbia. He finished in last place, ten minutes behind his closest competitor, but his effort was met with tears and applause from the other participants. Following the marathon, he announced to his family he intended to run the length of Canada in the hope of increasing cancer awareness.

The Marathon began on April 12, 1980, when Fox dipped his right leg in the Atlantic Ocean near St. John’s, Newfoundland, and filled two large bottles with ocean water. He intended to keep one as a souvenir and pour the other into the Pacific Ocean upon completing his journey at Victoria, British Columbia.

The physical demands of running a marathon every day took its toll on Fox’s body. He frequently suffered shin splints and an inflamed knee. He developed cysts on his stump and experienced dizzy spells. Fox rejected calls for him to seek regular medical checkups, and dismissed suggestions he was risking his future health.

Fox found that by late August he was exhausted before he began his day’s run. This Canadian History for Kids article continues on September 1, when outside of Thunder Bay, he was forced to stop briefly after he suffered an intense coughing fit and experienced pains in his chest. Unsure what to do, he resumed running as the crowds along the highway shouted out their encouragement. A few miles later, short of breath, he was driven to a hospital. The next day, Fox held a tearful press conference during which he announced that his cancer had returned and spread to his lungs. He was forced to end his run after 143 days and 5,373 kilometres.

In the following months, Fox received multiple chemotherapy treatments. However, the disease continued to spread. As his condition worsened, Canadians hoped for a miracle and Pope John Paul II sent a telegram saying that he was praying for Fox. He was re-admitted to the Royal Columbian Hospital in New Westminster on June 19, 1981, with chest congestion and developed pneumonia. He fell into a coma and died at 4:35 a.m. on June 28, 1981, with his family by his side.

Fox remains a prominent figure in Canadian folklore. His determination united the nation with people from all walks of life lending their support to his run, and his memory inspires pride in all regions of the country. A couple more Canadian History for Kids facts are that a 1999 national survey named him as Canada’s greatest hero, and he finished second to Tommy Douglas in the 2004 Canadian Broadcasting Corporation program, “The Greatest Canadian.” Fox’s heroic status has been attributed to his image as an ordinary person attempting a remarkable and inspirational feat.

And that’s this week’s Canadian History for Kids, exclusive!
 

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