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Tuesday, July 28, 2015

July 28, 1958

It's time for another edition of the Tuesday Timeline, and it's also the last Tuesday Timeline for the month of July.  I'm not going to lie to you.  July's been a fantastic month for me, and I really am sorry to see it end.  The only thing I wish I could change about July is that I wish the temperature wasn't so blistering hot.  I've never liked heat or humidity much.  Give me a nice blustery fall afternoon any day of the year!

But yeah, July 2015 will go down in history as a very good month, and I think that in the world of sports, today's Tuesday Timeline date is one that should be celebrated.  After all, the subject is a famous Canadian hero.

We'll get to that a little bit later.  You know the drill by now.

1540 - Thomas Cromwell is executed for treason on the order of Henry VIII of England - who would go on to marry fifth wife Catherine Howard that same day

1821 - Jose de San Martin declares the independence of Peru from Spain

1866 - Vinnie Ream becomes the first (and youngest) female artist to receive a commission from the United States for a statue of a president (the late Abraham Lincoln)

1896 - The city of Miami, Florida is incorporated

1901 - Actor/singer Rudy Vallee (d. 1986) is born in Island Point, Vermont

1914 - Austria-Hungary declares war on Serbia, kicking off the first World War

1929 - Former First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis (d. 1994) is born in Southampton, New York

1935 - The debut flight of the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress takes place

1942 - Joseph Stalin issues Order No. 227 in response to alarming German advances into the Soviet Union

1943 - Operation Gomorrah takes place, killing 42,000 German civilians following the bombing of Hamburg by the Royal Air Force

1945 - Fourteen are killed and another 26 injured when a United States Army B-25 Bomber crashes into the Empire State Building

1957 - Nearly a thousand people are killed when heavy rains cause a mudslide in Kyushu, Japan

1965 - Lyndon B. Johnson announces an order to increase the number of soldiers in South Vietnam from 75,000-125,000

1973 - The Summer Jam at Watkins Glen takes place, attracting almost 600,000 concertgoers

1976 - The Tangshan Earthquake flattens Tangshan, the Republic of China, killing almost a quarter of a million people

1984 - The opening ceremonies of the 1984 Summer Olympic Games takes place in Los Angeles

1996 - The remains of a prehistoric man are found near Kennewick, Wisconsin

2001 - Ian Thorpe becomes the first swimmer to win six gold medals at a single World Championships

2005 - The Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) ceases its 30-year-long armed campaign in Northern Ireland

2013 - American actress Eileen Brennan passes away at the age of 80

And, celebrating a birthday on July 28 we have the following famous faces - Phil Proctor, Peter Cullen, Jim Davis, Jonathan Edwards, Linda Kelsey, Sally Struthers, Georgia Engel, Bruce Abbott, Steve Morse, Michael Hitchcock, Rachel Sweet, Lori Loughlin, Alexis Arquette, Isabelle Brasseur, Stephen Lynch, Annie Perreault, Elizabeth Berkley, Afroman, Jacoby Shaddix, Noel Sullivan, Dave Rosin, Cain Velasquez, Cody Hay, Dustin Milligan, Alexandra Chando, Soulja Boy, Spencer Boldman, Hannah Lochner, and Cher Lloyd.

So, what is the date that we're going to go back to this week?

Well, we're going back in time fifty-seven years.  July 28, 1958.

The date happens to be the birthdate of today's subject.  And although his life was cut prematurely short, in the years that he did live, he achieved quite a lot.  He was the top Canadian newsmaker of 1980 and 1981, he was named a Companion of the Order of Canada, and an annual charity run has been named in his honour which raises millions of dollars for cancer research all over Canada. 

He was the figure that breathed life into the "Marathon of Hope".  And while he never did fully accomplish his goal, he touched the hearts of every Canadian who followed his goal, cheering him on the entire way.

This is the story of Terry Fox, who would have been fifty-seven years old today.

And Terry's story started off quite normally.  Born in Winnipeg, Manitoba, he was the second born of four children to Betty and Rolland Fox.  When Terry was eight years old, the family relocated to Surrey, British Columbia, and by the time he was ten, the Fox family had settled in nearby Port Coquitlam.  Terry's childhood was fairly normal, but his parents had noted his competitive spirit at an early age.  Already showing signs of being a gifted athlete, Terry refused to admit defeat in anything.  He would put forth the effort and practice hard until he was proficient in a specific sport, then move on to the next challenge. 

By the time Terry entered high school, he was more than determined to make the various sports teams, but he had one major disadvantage.  He stood at just over five feet tall, and many people saw his short stature to be a detriment.  But leave it to Terry to prove everybody wrong.  He played a variety of sports such as soccer, rugby, and baseball.  His real passion was basketball, but he was too short to really make much of an impact on the team.  Instead, the coach advised him to take up distance running.  Fox - in an effort to please his coach - took part in cross country running, but ironically enough, it was not his passion at that time.

You'll learn why I say it was ironic a little later.

By 1976, Fox had graduated from high school, and had enrolled at Simon Fraser University to become a physical education teacher.  He majored in kinesiology, and joined the school's junior varsity basketball team.  Things were going great for the eighteen-year-old who had a list of dreams that seemed endless.

Things began to unravel in the fall of 1976.  In November of that year, Terry was involved in a motor accident in which he crashed into the back of a pickup truck.  Though Terry survived the accident, he was left with throbbing pain in his right knee.  The pain would come and go over the next few months, but Terry didn't believe that it was anything serious, and finished the basketball season.  By the spring of 1977, the pain was getting worse, and not knowing the reason why, Terry made an appointment with his doctor to find out what was going on.

Sadly, the news was not good.  He was diagnosed with osteosarcoma - cancer of the bone.  And the only way to remove the cancer was to amputate Fox's right leg.  It was certainly a devastating blow for the Fox family, but Terry took it all in stride for a couple of reasons.

Firstly, Terry was one of the most determined people to have ever lived.  Even though losing his leg was a setback for him, he refused to let it define him.  In fact, he made it a mission to get back on his feet as soon as possible.  And sure enough, less than a month after the amputation, Fox was back up on his feet - with help from a prosthetic leg.

But what perked Fox up even more was the fact that the cancer that he had was not only treatable, but had a 50% chance of not coming back again.  The previous year, that number was only 15%.  The reason why Fox's odds improved was because of the extensive cancer research in treatment methods.  And this likely planted the seed in Terry Fox's mind to bring awareness to cancer treatments.

And just because he lost a limb, it didn't deter him from continuing to enjoy the sports that he once loved.  His father turned him onto golf, and Fox was recruited by another Canadian born hero Rick Hansen to join his wheelchair basketball team.  With Fox's determination and skill, he helped guide his team to three national titles!

However, his mark on the world was still yet to come.  And Fox saved the best for last.

In the summer of 1979, Fox had competed in a marathon in Prince George, British Columbia, and while he was the last participant to cross the finish line, his sheer determination to finish the race prompted everyone watching the run to cheer him on.  That moment, combined with an article he had read right around the time of his surgery that focused on Dick Traum - the first amputee to compete in the New York City Marathon - inspired Fox to come up with his fundraising idea.

It would come to be known as "The Marathon of Hope".  And it would be an ambitious goal.  He would attempt to go coast to coast across Canada to raise awareness for cancer research, and he wrote a slew of letters to the Canadian Cancer Society as well as to various sponsors asking for donations to get the project off the ground.  The only stipulation was that in order for him to accept the donations, the companies had to promise that they would not force him to endorse their company.  He wanted the run to be a non-profit one.

The marathon began on April 12, 1980 in Newfoundland, with Fox dipping his prosthetic leg into the Atlantic Ocean.  He filled two jars with ocean water, with plans to dump one in the Pacific Ocean upon the completion of his journey.  Supported by his best friend Doug Alward - and later on by his brother Darrell - Fox endured a lot of complications during his run.  The weather was all over the place, with him running through snowstorms, thunderstorms, windy days, and scorching heat.  But through it all, he visited several communities on his journey.  Entire towns would gather around to present Fox with donations worth thousands of dollars, and when he reached Quebec, he found an angel in Isadore Sharp, who offered to pledge two dollars for every mile he ran (and encouraged thousands of other businesses to do the same).

He arrived in Ontario just in time for the July 1 holiday, and despite the sweltering summer heat, he continued to average 26 miles a day.  On July 1, 1980, he was the guest of honour at a Canadian Football League game, and kicked a football in front of 16,000 people, all of whom gave him a standing ovation.  It was the first time that Terry Fox realized just how huge the Marathon had gotten.

But not everything about the Marathon of Hope went smoothly.  He was getting annoyed at certain newspapers caring more about his personal life than the fundraising goals, and he had started to look at the media as being too intrusive.  Of course, it was a double edged sword, as if it weren't for the media reporting on Fox's progress, the Marathon of Hope wouldn't have gotten the reception that it did.

But more than that, the physical toll the marathon took on Terry Fox was brutal.  He never really took a break from running - not even on his 22nd birthday - and his body took a beating from suffering from inflamed knees to having stress fractures on his ankle. 

And then in September 1980, Fox received some tragic news.  The cancer had come back and had spread to his lungs.  This caused his Marathon of Hope to end prematurely, after running for 143 days, and traveling for over five thousand kilometres - his journey ending just outside of Thunder Bay.

But even though his marathon had to did what Fox had intended.  Almost two million dollars was raised during the event - every penny being donated to cancer research.  And while Fox had every intention of finishing the run, the cancer had spread too far, and it was already too late.

He succumbed to the disease on June 28, 1981 - just one month before his twenty-third birthday.  And his death saddened an entire nation.  Flags all over the country were lowered to half mast, and his funeral was televised in Canada.

It's been thirty-four years since Fox's physical journey ended.  But as we remember him on his 57th birthday, his contribution to the world continues even today.  The Terry Fox Run has been going on since September 1981, raising millions of dollars annually.  And because of the money that Fox donated (and the near $650 million raised since his death), the cancer that Fox was diagnosed with now has a 70-80% survival rate - and no longer is amputation considered the only method of removing the cancer.

He was a man with a mission.  And even though he could not make the finish line physically, I'd say he got the point across.

Happy birthday, Terry Fox...and thank you for your contribution to Canadian society.

1 comment:

  1. This is a very informational post about what happened in the past Matthew. I enjoyed the details in the 1960s-2000s part.