Terry was an 18-year-old first year Kinesiology student at SFU and a member of the SFU junior varsity basketball team in 1977 when he was diagnosed with bone cancer that resulted in the amputation of his right leg six inches above the knee. After undergoing chemotherapy and seeing other people, particularly children, suffering with cancer, Terry decided that he wanted to make a difference in the world. He wanted to do something to help cure this dreadful disease.
Terry began his Marathon of Hope on April 12, 1980 in St. John's, Newfoundland. When he was forced by a recurrence of cancer to stop his cross-Canada run at Thunder Bay, Ontario, on September 1, 1980, he had completed a total of 5,373 km over 143 days, the equivalent of a marathon every day. After a courageous battle with cancer, he passed away in June 1981.
Few people are aware of the physical enormity of what Terry did in his Marathon of Hope run across Canada. He ran 26 miles per day, 7 days per week. Imagine how sore your legs would be if you walked 26 miles, day after day, on pavement. Imagine how much sorer your legs would be if you ran 26 miles, day after day. Few people could stand up to such punishment. Then try to imagine how incredibly difficult and painful it would be to run 26 miles per day with an artificial limb. It is almost beyond comprehension.
It was a journey that Canadians will never forget. His courage, determination, humanitarianism, and selflessness have been an inspiration to millions of people.
Since Terry's death in 1981, the Terry Fox Foundation has raised over 600 million dollars worldwide for cancer research. This money has been used to produce better treatments for many different types of cancers. These newer treatments reduce suffering and prolong life and bring us closer to an eventual cure for cancer.
In November 2004, Canadians voted Terry Fox the second Greatest Canadian of all time, after Tommy Douglas, following a nationwide contest organized by CBC (over 1.2 million votes were cast). A 1999 national internet survey named him Canada's greatest hero. And this famous Canadian hero whose legacy has inspired and helped so many people, was a student at Simon Fraser University! Due to Terry's incredible impact upon the world, the SFU Alumni Association bestowed honorary alumni status upon Terry after he passed away.