The Story of Terry Fox

September 14, 2022 | Eleni

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Every September, Canadians across the country take part in events called the Terry Fox Run. But who was Terry Fox, and why is he such an important person in Canadian history?

Terry Fox was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba, on July 28, 1958. He eventually moved to Port Coquitlam, British Columbia with his family. Terry had a very ordinary childhood. He had parents and siblings that he grew up with and loved to play games with. He enjoyed going to school to learn and hang out with his friends. When he got older, he played many sports and dreamed of becoming a high school gym teacher.

Sadly, a medical diagnosis changed the path that Terry’s life was on. In November 1976, a few months after his 18th birthday, Terry started feeling pain in his right knee. He tried to ignore the pain, but it grew and grew until he finally went to the hospital where he had X-rays and a bone scan done. The doctors told him that he had bone cancer and that they were going to have to amputate or remove, his leg.

Terry was so sad and he knew his life was going to change. However, he did not give up. This was a challenge he was going to face. He decided that he was going to run across Canada to raise money for cancer research. After his leg was amputated, he learned to walk with a prosthetic leg and started training in order to strengthen his body for the run.

After months of preparing his body for the journey, as well as raising awareness of the run he was about to begin, Terry was ready. He started his run on the morning of April 12, 1980 in St. John's, Newfoundland. He planned to run across Canada and end in Port Renfrew, British Columbia (that's 8530 kilometres!). The run was called the Marathon of Hope.

Black and white photo of Terry Fox running past a crowd of onlookers. A child on rollerblades skates behind him.
Photography by Boris Spremo, 1980. Image from the Toronto Star Photograph Archive.

Terry ran all the way to Thunder Bay, Ontario, 143 days in total, before his health changed. He became very ill and had to go home because he could not run anymore. Although Terry was not able to finish the Marathon of Hope, he raised more than 24 million dollars for cancer research, and he inspired others to raise money as well. Unfortunately, Terry passed away a month before his 23rd birthday, on June 28, 1981.  

Terry Fox has become a symbol of hope for many Canadians. His determination, courage and generosity continues to inspire millions of people around the world to raise money, such as through the Terry Fox Foundation, and to participate in events like the Terry Fox Run. Together we continue to run to fight cancer, to give hope to those living with the disease, and to honour Terry Fox. 

Here are some children's books about Terry Fox, as well as books related to limb loss and cancer:

Terry Fox A Story of Hope

Terry Fox: A Story of Hope by Maxine Trottier

Meet Terry Fox

Meet Terry Fox by Elizabeth MacLeod, illustrated by Mike Deas

Terry Fox and Me

Terry Fox and Me by Mary Beth Leatherdale, illustrated by Milan Pavlović

Terry Fox

Terry Fox by Terry Barber

What Happened to You

What Happened to You? by James Catchpole, illustrated by Karen George

Rescue & Jessica A Life Changing Friendship

Rescue & Jessica: a Life-Changing Friendship by Jessica Kensky and Patrick Downes, illustrated by Scott Magoon

Wearing an Artificial Limb

Wearing an Artificial Limb by Harriet Brundle

When a Kid Like Me Fights Cancer

When a Kid Like Me Fights Cancer by Catherine Stier, illustrated by Angel Chang

Cancer is a C Word

Cancer is a C Word by Sunita Pal


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