Either, my mood has some awesome power over everyone and everything to make a visual soundtrack or the weather is making me feel... a bit glum. Either way, Vancouver does have one shining pearl of enlightenment up its sleeve to share with me as I arrive to the new plaza at the recently renovated BC Place Stadium.
I'm looking at these 4 bronze statues of what appears to be some bloke running a bit weird, his face looks like he's struggling and focused and with a tshirt he's wearing that says “Marathon” I can understand why his face looked like that. It took me around 7 minutes of admiring the tribute for my eyes to tell my brain that his right leg differed from his left.
His right leg was a prosthetic – not an actual prosthetic leg as this statue is intended to last a thousand years and his real prosthetic leg wasn't bronze as that's less than ideal for running a marathon with, just a bronzed representation of what his leg looked like.
This man is actually a boy, he is a Canadian icon, he is an international hero, he was hugely ambitious, he led a truly determined but saddening life. An inspiration for all. I introduce to you, Terrance Stanley “Terry” Fox.
Fox was an avid and successful high school athlete, when at 19 years old in 1977 he was diagnosed with an aggressive cancer in his right knee which resulted in him having to have his right leg amputated; during this traumatic episode in his life he learnt the positive effects cancer research and funding was having with his condition, his chances of survival being raised to 50% from 15% in just 2 years; Athleticism ran through his veins and found success with wheelchair basketball with thanks to his competitive, dedicated and stubborn nature, Fox had bigger a challenge in his sights.
While in hospital, Fox read about Dick Traum, the amputee to complete the New York marathon; this inspired him to come up with The Marathon of Hope, his idea was that he would raise 1 dollar for every person in Canada (24 million, at the time) by running a 26 mile marathon everyday for 5000 miles across Canada from St. Johns, Newfoundland to Victoria, British Columbia.
In April 1980, after gained sponsorship from Ford, Adidas and Imperial Oil, he dipped his right leg in the Atlantic and set off west; with every step, through every town over summer his aware to the cause gained momentum and captured the nation's imagination and became a national icon.
In September 1980, 143 later from when he started, Fox suffered from chest pains and was unable to continue his run; worried, he rushed to hospital. The next day he held a press conference, with tears and great regret he shared the news of his hospital tests results saying, his cancer had spread to his lungs. The Marathon of Hope had come to a premature end and by December 1980, he had disappeared from public view and in June 1981, Terry Fox passed away.
Though he was gone from the public view, he was not forgotten; He received an overwhelming public response, in the 7 months he was absent from the public eye people from around the world were hearing of his achievements and donating from far and wide, letters with “Terry Fox, Canada” were being successfully delivered, by April 1981 over $23 million had been raised; it didn't stop there as it has gained more momentum over the years; a Terry Fox Run is held every year, involving millions of people in over 50 countries and has raised half a billion dollars in his name so far.
The most curious part of the Terry Fox plaza is a small written piece by Vancouver resident Douglas Coupland called “What If?” it goes into detail about, what if Terry had changed his mind to do the Marathon of Hope and decided not to go ahead with it; He might not have had a relapse and gone on with his life to get a job, get married and raise a family; he himself might have wondered for the rest of his life, “What If?”.
Coupland continues to say; the world, weather and its people would just be the same and carry on doing its thing, everything would be the same and yet the way life is viewed by us after learning his incredible story wouldn't be the same as our perspectives are now altered about we feel about death, courage and strength; but, we are all guilty of feeling we are just one person on Earth and do we bother going on as nothing really matters; but yet, we all do.
Coupland concludes with; “If we follow Terry's example of choosing the more difficult choice, our lives take on meaning greater than we might ever have dared hope”
After I read that and looked back at the statues, for what seemed like hours – eerie shivers ran over my skin, welling up of tear ducts mixed with admirable feelings towards this motivated young individual who I never knew existed a couple of minutes ago. I leave feeling sad and a bit low, but surprisingly, I simply couldn't dwell on it; I quickly shifted from feeling down to feeling enlightened and reinvigorated.
I think most of us, if not all, are familiar with the story of heating up a frog; put a frog in hot water it immediately jumps out, put a frog in cold water and turn up the heat it will stay there until it dies. Life can sometimes feel like this, sometimes all is required is a bit of bravery to take that leap out of the pan of comfort and accept that new challenge.