Betty Fox died on June 17th, 2011.
Not to make light of the matter but she was not the mother of Michael J. Fox, as some errant NBC announcers broadcasting during the Winter Olympics of 2010 would have you believe.
Most importantly, Mrs. Fox was the mother of Terry Fox, and Terry Fox was, without a doubt, one of the most significant Canadians who ever lived.
Born in Winnipeg in 1958, Terry found out in 1977 that he had a rare form of bone cancer. At the time, he was reportedly a stand-out athlete and was studying kinesiology. In an effort to halt the spread of the disease, doctors decided the amputation of most of one leg was necessary. Terry went on the chopping block and much of his right leg was taken off
That wasn’t the end of it.
Sixteen months of chemotherapy and rehabilitation followed.
It was during this recovery period that Terry Fox came up with the idea for something he called the “Marathon of Hope.” He would, on one leg and with the help of a prosthetic, run across Canada in an effort to raise money and awareness for cancer research.
Apparently, Betty Fox thought the idea was a silly one. Her son had just completed his first competitive run and suggested that a jaunt across the country would be a snap.
Terry first broached the subject of a cross-country run in September of 1979, according to a story recently published across Canada in the Globe and Mail newspaper. As the story goes, Terry and his mother argued back and forth, but in the end Terry had his way.
He would run across Canada.
The marathon began on April 12th, 1980, in St. John’s, Newfoundland, and the rest of the story is the stuff of Canadian legend.
At first, things didn’t go well. The weather was awful, donations to the cause were virtually non-existent, no one seemed to care about this one-legged kid trying to hop his way across the country, and Terry was just about ready to give up.
But, he stuck it out.
Gradually, people began to pay attention. Television stations would air news reports of his quest. Newspapers picked up the story. A prominent Canadian hotelier pledged to provide the marathon crew with food and accommodations at Four Seasons Hotels across the country.
By the late summer of 1980, Canadians were transfixed with the “Marathon of Hope.”
Donations swelled. TV and radio coverage was non-stop. Canadians by the dozens, hundreds, thousands, came out along the route to cheer on Terry and provide moral and financial support.
Then, on September 1st, near Thunder Bay, Ontario, it all came to an end.
Terry woke up that day and found he couldn’t do it any longer. He couldn’t seem to take another step. Why? Cancer had returned, this time to his lungs.
After 143 days and 5373 kilometres, the “Marathon of Hope” came to an end.
Something then happened that had rarely ever taken place before in Canada.
The Terry Fox quest was taken up by thousands of others from coast to coast, and to this day annual Terry Fox runs, usually in September, are held just about everywhere in the country, always with the same goal in mind -to raise funds and awareness for cancer research.
Terry Fox died on June 28th, 1981. Before his death, he had seen his efforts result in donations of nearly 24 (Cdn) million dollars.
Since his death, and until her passing, his mother — Betty Fox — had been a tireless spokesperson for his cause, and in the years since, her efforts have helped raise a reported more than 500 million (Cdn) dollars for cancer research.
Former Canadian prime minister Pierre Trudeau rose in the House of Commons shortly after Terry’s death to say, “It occurs very rarely in the life of a nation that the courageous spirit of one person united all people in the celebration of his ife and in the mourning of his death. We do not think of him as one who was defeated by misfortune, but as one who inspired us with the example of the triumph of the human spirit over adversity.”
In equal fashion, so will Betty Fox be remembered.