Terry Fox should not only be considered a “Great Canadian Athlete”, he should be considered a Great Canadian. On March 9, 1977 Terry’s leg was amputated 15 centimetres above the knee after he discovered he had a malignant tumour in his right leg. The night before his amputation, Terry’s former basketball coach gave him an article about an amputee who ran in the New York Marathon.

After reading this article Terry decided that he was going to overcome his disability and meet this challenge head on, which is exactly what he did. Finding out that you have cancer and coming to terms with the fact that you have to have your leg amputated is an emotionally draining experience, and to be able to overcome that and to decide to do something to raise money for cancer research shows the kind of person Terry truly was. He was a determined, unselfish person who would stop at nothing until his goal of raising one dollar for every Canadian citizen was met.

On April 12, 1980 Terry dipped his artificial leg into the Atlantic Ocean and began his run. He ran an average of 42 kilometres a day. As many of us know, Terry’s journey was cut short just outside of Thunder Bay, Ontario when his cancer spread to his lungs. He stopped running on September 1, 1980, after 143 days and 5373 km of running. Terry passed away on June 28, 1981 at Royal Columbian Hospital, New Westminster, British Columbia. However, even though Terry was never able to finish his journey, he touched so many lives and helped come closer to find a cure for cancer.

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The reason I feel that Terry Fox should be considered a Great Canadian Athlete is because Terry did something so unselfish and gave so many other people hope. Cancer is a disease that still claims so many lives every year. Our nation benefitted as a result of Terry coming forward and starting his marathon. Now every year we have the Terry Fox Marathon of Hope, where anyone can run for donations for the cure of cancer. Terry inspired so many people to step up and take steps toward change, and as he said in his letter to the Canadian Cancer Society: “I’m not a dreamer, and I’m not saying that this will initiate any kind of definitive answer or cure to cancer. But I believe in miracles. I have to.” Terry did not know the kind of response he was going to get from the CCS or from Canadians as a whole, yet he decided to run his marathon anyways, which shows what an amazing person he truly was.

As the saying goes, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade”. This is exactly what Terry did. Life threw him a curve ball, yet he turned it into a learning experience and tried to make the best of it. When something this life altering happens to you, you can either let it get the best of you and decide that life is unfair and wake up on the wrong side of the bed every day, or you can see the glass as half full; which is exactly what Terry did. He got his leg amputated and saw that as an opportunity to do something to be able to say his disability didn’t get the best of him and to raise awareness so that this doesn’t happen to other people. I can honestly say that I wish and hope that I would be able to do what Terry did. Taking a negative and turning it into a positive is a very hard thing to do, and I’m sure Terry was in both mental and physical pain from running every day, as I can imagine prosthetic legs to be very painful.

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Besides the fact that Terry was running with an artificial leg is how much Terry actually did run. He ran about 42 km per day for 143 days. Terry ran over 5000 km with little breaks, which is absolutely enough to qualify him as a Great Canadian Athlete. Knowing Terry’s circumstances just make his story that much more amazing.

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