Terry Fox's brother urges Canadians to keep up the fight

·3 min read

The initial entry in Terry Fox's journal from his first day running his Marathon of Hope still rings true in the ears of his brother more than four decades later.

"'Today is the day it all begins,'" said Fred Fox 41 years to the day after his younger brother took his first steps on what became an epic journey across Canada.

The younger Fox was 18 when he was first diagnosed with cancer. He lost his leg to the disease but he didn't let that defeat him.

"He saw many people, old and young, suffering from cancer," said Fred. "It impacted him immensely and he wanted to do something about it. He came up with this crazy idea of running a marathon across Canada, doing 42 kilometres every day.

"Terry would say anything is possible if you try," he added. "That's what we challenge Canadians to do: try like Terry."

When Terry lost his life before he could make it to his destination on the west coast, the whole of Canada took up his cause.

"When (he) passed away," said Fred, "we didn't think we would have a part in keeping this going. It was actually our mom and Canadians all over that came to our family and said we need to keep this going."

So, their mother became the spokesperson, travelling to various communities to share Terry's story.

Four decades later, those running alongside Terry have raised over $850 million toward cancer research in the country.

"That's why it's so important to mark this day," said Fred. "It's impacted so many lives on so many who have been diagnosed with cancer."

When younger, he said, the four siblings did everything together.

"When he was diagnosed, we were shocked," said the now 64-year-old, who was 14 months older than Terry. "We didn't really know a lot about cancer."

Fred said he wasn't living at home when Terry started training for the run.

"I remember when he told me what he was going to do," he said, adding, "When he said he was going to do something, he usually did it and he worked hard to do it."

Fred recalled wishing good luck to his younger sibling, telling him they'll see him when he got home, never imagining what would happen on the way - nor the impact Terry would end up having on the country.

"Some of what we were thinking about during the run was concern around his health," said Fred. "He had a close call in Nova Scotia where he was almost hit by a vehicle. But watching the news coverage gave us so much pride in what Terry was doing."

He said all four of the siblings, as well as their mother, were quiet and reserved by nature.

"And here Terry was getting very confident in what he was doing and the impact he was having on other people," Fred said. "As I have gotten older and gone through different stages of my life, I've drawn so much inspiration from Terry in so many different ways."

He remembered Terry as being a very caring young man. But like every teenager, he had very few cares in the world.

"When he got cancer, it changed his life (and) the only important thing was helping other people," said Fred. "He truly believed that the answer is to help others."

Over the years, he said, Terry has become a symbol of resilience and determination.

As for what this year's event will look like, Fred said he wasn't sure what format the marathon will take.

"We haven't made a definitive decision on that yet," he said. "We suspect the larger communities and populated areas may have to go with a virtual format. Smaller communities may be able to hold an in-person run but who knows."

Mehreen Shahid, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, OrilliaMatters.com