16 The Terry Fox Effect

Terry Fox had a dream. He dreamt of a world without cancer. Diagnosed at the age of 18 with bone cancer, the young Canadian lost part of his right leg to the disease. According to the Terry Fox Research Institute (2019), while in hospital Terry was deeply touched by the pain and suffering he saw in the cancer ward, especially that of children. Then and there, he decided to run across Canada to raise money for cancer research in the hope of finding a cure. He called it his Marathon of Hope. To prepare for the marathon, he trained for 18 months and ran over 5000 kilometers. His marathon began in St. John’s, Newfoundland in the spring of 1980. After 143 days of running, however, Terry had to stop – cancer had reappeared in his body, this time in the lungs. On June 28, 1981, the 22-year-old Terry Fox passed away. His death triggered an outpouring of support unlike any other seen in Canada, with ripple effects eventually reaching the far corners of the world.

Terry Fox’s young life and untimely death had a tremendous effect on people, inspiring both young and old alike. Although he started in Newfoundland with very little press, by the time he reached Ontario, Terry Fox was a household name and being met by Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, hockey great Bobby Orr, and British actor Maggie Smith on his journey (Marshall, 2008). According to Wilson-Smith (2015), polls have shown and continue to show Terry Fox as a role model for Canadians, especially the young. For example, a young Roshni Dasgupta watched Terry Fox run on television, inspiring her to do good (Scrivener, 2010). At 17, she won the Terry Fox Humanitarian Award which launched her academic career, culminating with her becoming a pediatric surgeon. She believed she could achieve her dream because he had. Many others would say the same. Olympians, in particular, were inspired by his hard work and determination. These include figure skaters, cross country skiers, speedskaters, and many other athletes. Rick Hansen, who travelled the world in his wheelchair on his Man in Motion world tour, was also inspired by Terry, who was a personal friend of his (Freeborn, 2008). In fact, Terry Fox has inspired so many people that Canada has honoured him in many different ways over the years. According to Annable (2014), a staggering 32 streets, 14 schools, 14 buildings, one ship, one provincial holiday, and one mountain have been named after him in Canada.

Terry Fox’s life and death have also made considerable impact on cancer research. His dream was to find a cure for cancer by raising awareness and raising money for research through his Marathon of Hope. His goal, at the time, was to raise $1 for each Canadian citizen or resident (The Terry Fox Foundation, 2018). According to the Terry Fox Foundation (2018), Terry managed to raise $23.4 million dollars for cancer research despite having had to stop his run prematurely in Ontario. Upon his death in 1981, the annual Terry Fox Run was established in September with the first run seeing people walking, running or cycling in his memory in over 760 locations across Canada. The first run raised $3.5 million (The Terry Fox Foundation, 2018). To date, the annual run – now hosted in countries all over the world – has raised over $750 million dollars for cancer research. This has been used to fund around 1200 research projects on different kinds of cancer, including lung, brain, breast, prostate, and even eye cancer. The Foundation has hired innovative researchers that have won some of the world’s most prestigious awards in cancer research and hopes to make major breakthroughs in the near future.

To conclude, Terry Fox’s short life has had tremendous impact not only on Canada but on the world as a whole. Fox’s dream of curing cancer has inspired thousands, if not millions, of people around the world. Every year people from all walks of life gather in September in places like Hong Kong, Vietnam, the United Arab Emirates, and Brazil to run and raise money for cancer research on behalf of Terry Fox. As time passes, more nations are sure to join the run and the fight against cancer worldwide. Terry Fox may have been only an ‘ordinary man’, but he has had an extraordinary effect on the world. We thank you, Terry!



Annable, K. (2014, July 30). Terry Fox will have his day. Winnipeg Sun. Retrieved April 1, 2020 from https://winnipegsun.com/2014/07/30/province-to-name-august-civic-holiday-after-terry-fox/wcm/c8955544-c52a-4dca-a5bc-9a8bddee128b

Freeborn, J. (2008). Rick Hansen. Retrieved April 1, 2020 from https://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/rick-hansen

Marshall, T. (2008). Terry Fox. Retrieved March 29, 2020 from https://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/terry-fox

Scrivener, L. (2010, April 11). How Terry Fox changed Canada. The Star. Retrieved March 29, 2020 from https://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2010/04/11/how_terry_fox_changed_canada.html

The Terry Fox Foundation. (2018). The Marathon of Hope. Retrieved April 12, 2020 from https://terryfox.org/terrys-story/marathon-of-hope/

The Terry Fox Research Institute. (2019). Terry Fox and the Marathon of Hope revoluntionized cancer research in Canada. Retrieved March 28, 2020 from https://www.tfri.ca/about/terry-fox

Wilson-Smith, A. (2015). Terry Fox: Role model and inspiration. Retrieved March 29, 2020 from https://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/terry-fox-role-model-and-inspiration


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