I recently watched a film called, IKIRU ( “To Live” in English)
. It is a drama by the critically acclaimed Japanese film maker, Akira Kurosawa, about a man who finds out he has terminal stomach cancer. He begins to question his life, his relationships, and his contribution to the community around him. It’s a beautiful lesson about how to make the most out of life, even if it’s not that long. As I was watching it, I couldn’t help but think about the parallels between the protagonist in the fictional story, and the real life of the legendary Terry Fox.
If you are Canadian, (like our good pal / podcast co-host Stefan) then you are very familiar with Terry Fox. Terry was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba (Canada) in 1958. He was a spirited athlete, pursuing perfection in sports from rugby to soccer as a child. Despite his small stature, he was determined to make his high school basketball team in 8th grade. Although he was the last player to make the cut, his work ethic over the summers paid off. He was awarded his high school’s Athlete of the Year by 12th grade.
While attending Simon Fraser University (where he had earned a spot on the basketball team), Terry was diagnosed with osteosarcoma. This form of cancer often starts in the knee, and he was told that his leg would need to be amputated. Following his knee’s amputation, Terry endured 16 months of chemotherapy. Following his time at British Columbia Cancer Control Agency, Terry had a newfound zeal for life.
The night before his cancer surgery, he was given a book about Dick Traum, the first amputee to complete the New York City Marathon. It inspired him, but instead of trying to run 26.2 miles, Terry intended to run the length of Canada in order to raise awareness for cancer research. Following a successful 17 mile race and months of training, he set out on his Marathon of Hope.
Starting on April 12, 1980 in St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador, Terry dipped his leg in the Atlantic Ocean and set out. His “Marathon” sparked enormous interest, and he met politicians, Hall of Fame athletes, and celebrities as he made his way across the country. Although his fame grew, his message of raising cancer awareness was the same.
He made it all the way to Thunder Bay, Ontario before having to stop. His cancer had spread to his lungs, and Terry lost his battle with the disease on June 28, 1981. He covered over 5,000 km on his run, and his Marathon of Hope raised over $23 million for cancer research, a number that would be well over $65 million today. He accomplished more in his 22 years on earth than most people do in a lifetime. We’ve got one shot at this life, let’s make it count like Terry did.