Legged Man Who Beat Cancer and Depression

Imagine that you are 28 years old, full of vim and vigor, and so full of excitement and promise about life. But also try to think of how you will react when doctors tell you that your right knee must be amputated to prevent cancer from spreading throughout your body. Would you cry in sadness or scream in anger? Probably, most people would wail and ask the proverbial question, “Why me?”

But one man named Terry Fox did exactly the opposite. Instead of thinking about the amputation as a disability, he saw it as an opportunity to rise to yet another challenge. While his cancer made him realize that death could come soon, he turned that grim reminder of human mortality into a lofty dream. Terry Fox, despite having only one normal leg and a prosthesis, decided to run across Canada to raise money to fund cancer research. Hailed as the greatest Canadian hero of modern times, Terry was often quoted as saying that his pain in running was nothing compared to the agony experienced by others like him who suffered from cancer.

Aside from the physical pain caused by cancer, many patients also struggle with depression. Terry Fox mentioned to his friends how difficult it was for him to run what has been called a “Marathon of Hope.” He said that, at different segments of the run, he felt physical pain yet the emotional torment was also equally excruciating, if not more so. Yet that challenge did not deter him from pursuing his dream of raising one dollar each from every Canadian. At that time, the total population of Canada was 24 million.

His quest actually began from a car accident that caused an injury to his right knee. After a few months, he visited doctors to complain about a persistent pain on the said knee. When the test results came in, Terry Fox was shocked by the diagnosis — he had cancer in his knee called osteosarcoma, a disease whose origins or causes are still unknown. To prevent the spread of the cancer, the doctors amputated his right leg just a few inches above the affected knee. At first, Terry Fox found the leg surgery very difficult to accept since he was a gifted athlete who excelled in water sports, soccer, basketball, rugby, and baseball. Having a physical disability was not exactly something that crossed his mind since he was very active and sports-driven even from a young age. For quite some time, he was weighed down physically and emotionally by the disease and the amputation of his leg.

Terry Fox, instead of being totally devastated by his physical condition, decided to do something about cancer. He decided that he would raise money by running across Canada. On April 12, 1980, Terry began his long journey in Newfoundland. His marathon inspired many people who willingly donated money to support his cause. After 143 days of running, he had already covered 5, 375 kilometers. He could not, however, finish the cross-country marathon because the doctors were able to detect that his cancer had already spread to his lungs. His run ended on August 31 ended in Ontario, upon his doctor’s advice. During treatment, Terry Fox died after slipping into a comma. During his hospilization, many groups of followers and fans organized a telethon to support the Terry’s Marathon of Hope.

Terry’s emotional stability and mental fortitude enabled him to run thousands of miles for a worthy cause. While he himself was not able to benefit from new medical research on curing cancer, his heroic act was able to achieve his goal — 24 million dollars to fund cancer research. For his incredible feat, Terry Fox was awarded as the youngest recipient of the Order of Canada, one of the most prestigious awards in Canada, at that time.

The U.S. National Cancer Institute estimates that at least 25 percent of cancer patients have problems with emotional distress that is largely attributed to the fear of death. The prospect of dying brings such a great burden of loneliness, despair, and fear. Uncertainties about the future, sleeplessness, and loss of appetite all contribute to the increase of stress and anxiety. Some patients even need to take antidepressant prescriptions just to control their enormous distress, which is really quite understandable considering that cancer is one of the most debilitating diseases known to man.

Terry Fox was able to beat cancer and depression by not allowing himself to fall into despair. After his death, the Marathon of Hope was continued by many followers who believed in his cause. To date, more than 300,000 runners have participated in the yearly event organized in Canada and 60 other countries around the world. Over the years, the Marathon of Hope that was started by a one-legged man who said no to disease and depression had already earned $360 million dollars for cancer research.