Terry Fox: Celebrating a Canadian Hero During a 4500 Km Drive from Vancouver to Ottawa in the Midst of the Covid-19 Pandemic
By NURIN MERCHANT
Co-Editor Simergphotos, Barakah and Simerg
I was born almost 20 years after cancer took away the life of Terry Fox, but the stories that I read about Terry Fox, the film that I watched of Terry running across Canada to raise our awareness of the disease that afflicted him and finally took his life in 1981, shortly after he had to abandon his Marathon of Hope run across Canada near Thunder Bay, Northern Ontario, makes him a prominent Canadian hero.
April 12, 2021 will mark the 41st anniversary of the commencement of his run, and while I look back over the past 12 months of the year of the Covid-19 pandemic, I am very excited to know that Terry Fox is the favourite among eight Canadians who have been nominated to replace Sir Wilfrid Laurier, the nation’s seventh prime minister, on the Bank of Canada’s next redesigned release of the five dollar bill. (Read Bank of Canada Nominees Article)
The distance from Vancouver to Ottawa is around 4,500 kms. My mom, Rozina, and I took to the road in her car last September (2020). We were into the seventh month of the Covid-19 pandemic. We left Vancouver on Tuesday, September 16, drove approximately 900 kms each day and made it to Ottawa in 5 days!
Terry Fox began his run, the Marathon of Hope, on the east coast of Canada, in Newfoundland, where he dipped his prosthetic leg into the Atlantic Ocean. He set out westwards, and his planned run was expected to take him through all the Canadian provinces before he would reach British Columbia — a distance of more than 7,000 kms, considering that he wasn’t going to be taking the shortest route! For 154 days, he ran the equivalent of a marathon each day. Then, just as he reached Thunder Bay, he became ill and had to return home to continue with his cancer treatment. His journal in which he describes his experiences and feelings during his marathon is a must-read. Here is an excerpt from a press conference he gave in Thunder Bay on September 1, the last day of his run.
That’s the thing about cancer. I’m not the only one, it happens all the time to people. I’m not special. This just intensifies what I did. It gives it more meaning. It’ll inspire more people… I just wish people would realize that anything’s possible if you try. When I started this Run, I said that if we all gave one dollar, we’d have $22 million for cancer research, and I don’t care, man, there’s no reason that isn’t possible. No reason. — Terry Fox
Thunder Bay was one of the most inspiring stop over for us in our long drive. Unfortunately, the spectacular Rockies were blanked by clouds of smoke due to the wildfires affecting the Western United States at that time, which was very disappointing. Our plans to stop over at lookout points and do some beautiful trails just off the Trans Canada Highway along the Rockies did not work out due to poor air quality. We might have spent a day or two in places like Calgary, Regina and Winnipeg but due to Covid-19, we decided to play it safe and stop only in places that were necessary. So, with short rest stops and a couple of days of sleeping overnight, we continued driving with a determination to make it to Ottawa in 5 days — that’s averaging 900 kms everyday, or 10 or 11 hours of driving each day, and crossing 3 time zones.
The Rockies and The Prairies
One of the most fascinating parts of the drive was the ever changing landscape. From tall mountains, to dense forests, to flat prairies — Canada really has it all. Seeing flat plains with bales of hay stretching for miles and miles was an amazing sight.
Kakabeka Falls and Thunder Bay Marina
Just before Thunder Bay we took the opportunity to see the breathtaking 40 metre high Kakabeka Falls, the second highest in Ontario after Niagara Falls, which is 11 metres higher. We reached Thunder Bay (pop. 110,000) late in the evening, settled into a comfortable hotel and went for a delicious meal.
Before making the stop at the iconic Terry Fox sculpture situated at the summit of Mount Mackay, overlooking Lake Superior, we stopped to see the sunrise at the beautiful Thunder Bay Marina.
My Encounter With Terry Fox at His Memorial in Thunder Bay
Then came time to visit the renowned Terry Fox statue, commemorating a wonderful man who is well-known worldwide. I snapped photographs of him from all angles. Thunder Bay is located in Northern Ontario, and is a long drive from Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal — more than 1400 kms from any of these cities, which is 30% of the entire drive from Vancouver to Ottawa. Should you happen to be in Thunder Bay, even for a day, make it a point to remember our Canadian Hero whose Marathon of Hope is celebrated every year on September 20, through the Terry Fox Canada wide run. The run generates funds towards Cancer Research. Remember how he ran and inspired millions around this country and around the world, and taught us that no illness or human condition obstruct us from achieving our goals.
His Highness the Aga Khan: Every Day is a Day that Must be Lived to the Best of Our Ability
As I reflected on Terry Fox and his interview in Thunder Bay on September 1, 1980, I was reminded of a Farman (guidance) that Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, gave to his Ismaili followers some 48 years ago, in 1973. He said in Mumbai (then Bombay) that so long as we are alive, everyday is a day that must be lived, and in that day we must fulfill our duties to the best of our ability. He concluded by reminding us that we should not let time pass, without being aware that once it has passed, it has gone forever. (Ilm magazine, UK Ismailia Association — now ITREB — July 1976, back cover).
Terry Fox was not an Ismaili but his example and the message of Mawlana Hazar Imam should resonate with us every single moment of our life, and especially during crisis and difficult times that we may be facing.
Terry Fox: An Inspiration for all Canadians
The Covid-19 pandemic has made this year a very difficult and weary one for the entire world. Everyone needs inspiration, and I think that Terry Fox is a great source of inspiration for us all. Seeing the look of determination in his face, with his fists clenched, as he bravely made his way across Canada for a cause that might one day see a cure for cancer. I am so happy that Thunder Bay was on the Trans Canada Highway! His memories will live with me for ever, and I will continue to draw inspiration from his determination to live life to the fullest.
Date posted: April 9, 2021.
Dr. Nurin Merchant received her veterinary medicine degree with distinction from the Ontario Veterinary College (University of Guelph) in 2019, and now works as a veterinarian in Ontario. Born and raised in Ottawa, Nurin completed her international baccalaureate (IB) program at Colonel By Secondary School before proceeding to the University of Guelph for an undergraduate degree in Biological Sciences which she passed with Honours. She then pursued veterinary medicine at the same school. Nurin enjoys hiking, loves nature and, of course, animals. She is also an artist. She paints, sculpts as well as designs and makes greeting cards during her spare time. She had two beautiful bunnies Pistachio and Canela, until Pistachio recently passed away from an illness. Like Canela, Nurin had acquired Pistachio from an animal care and rescue facility after the death of her very first rabbit, Wobbles.
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A NOTE ON THE ANNUAL WORLD WIDE TERRY FOX RUN
In 1980, with one leg having been amputated due to cancer, Terry Fox embarked on an east to west cross-Canada run to raise money and awareness for cancer research. Although the spread of his cancer eventually forced him to end his quest after 143 days and 5,373 kilometers (3,339 mi), and ultimately cost him his life, his efforts resulted in a lasting, worldwide legacy. The annual Terry Fox Run, first held in 1981, has grown to involve millions of participants in over 60 countries and is now the world’s largest one-day fundraiser for cancer research; over C$800 million has been raised in his name, as of April 20. Please visit the Terry Fox website, and learn more about his life.
Beautiful pictures and an even more beautiful narrative
So much enjoyed reading your article on Terry Fox. I live in the city he was born and we all are so proud of him and his achievements. Love your beautiful photos.
Thank you for such a great history lesson and a tour of our beautiful country. Terry Fox is a legend and having his picture on the $5 Bill is a great idea.
Driving across over 4000 Kilometres is a big feat. I and my siblings talk about a trip we wish to take from Toronto to Vancouver. Inshallah, next year will be the year we do that. Such wonderful pictures of the landscape of Canada.
Beautiful daughter who has the gift to tell beautiful stories and take great photos.
Thanks for the lovely pictures and article about your marathon across this beautiful country, Nurin. Terry Fox is indeed an inspiration to all of us.
Very very inspiring. Nurin I did not know we in our town we had such a talented student. You are a talented writer too. Thanks for your writing. When every thing settles I will visit Thunder Bay for sure.
Excellent piece of writing. Descriptive, exhilarating and inspiring. Great pics. Nurin is an accomplished young woman and charming. Her parents must be very proud of their daughter.
A wonderful read and an awesome guided drive through the mesmerising Canadian landscape.
Welcome break; a kind of enjoyable trip taken with friends, when most needed.