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Terry Fox

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I just finished watching the film about Terry Fox that Steve Nash helped create for ESPN’s 30 for 30 series (Into the Wind). His is a story that I’ve taken for granted—being Canadian it has always been there as long as I’ve been alive—but I suppose I was never of the mindset to appreciate the magnitude of what the man did. Looking back though, I’m not sure I ever really knew.

In the film’s closing moments a comment is made to the regard of us, as Canadians, being in an odd situation where we are constantly struggling to find our sense of identity. This is something I’ve thought a lot about. The longstanding American joke of us being tied solely to “eh”s and “aboot”s aside, the fact remains that there is so little that can be held onto, culturally, that is specifically Canadian that it can create a spiritual void in the construction of building a sense of self. There was a Molson commercial a few years back which tapped into this, but its popularity only aided in the absurdity of having to base one’s sense of national pride on calling a wool cap a tuque.

The purpose of bringing this up isn’t to begin to dissect any personal issues I’ve had with finding my own sense of self (a Canadian born to American parents who is raised under American customs while attempting to maintain an identity that reflects his homeland… how could that possibly lead to internal conflict?), but only to say that I feel now as though I was done a disservice along the way by not being reminded time and time again as to WHY Terry Fox is important. Perhaps at some point in elementary school I was shown a filmstrip or as a young child watched something on television attempting to explain why Terry Fox is important, but I don’t recall.

What I do know is that Terry Fox’s story offers something that isn’t given as much importance as it should. A young man, barely into his 20s, having had his right leg amputated due to cancer that had grown in it, overcoming that horrendous burden and pushing on to so something extraordinary. It has been nearly 31 years since Terry dipped his foot in the Atlantic before taking off on his journey. While his physical goal—running across Canada—was not met, Terry ran 3339 miles in 143 days before having to cut his attempt short. He didn’t stop because of injury or of lack of will. He stopped because cancer had returned, and had spread to his lungs. In those 31 years that passed, the Terry Fox Foundation has raised over 500 million dollars for cancer research. Perhaps this is just my own blind eye toward history becoming more apparent, but I still feel as though any point of celebration such as this man’s legacy should be reminded to near-redundancy. How this legendary story of triumph isn’t a platform for honest national pride and honored at every given opportunity by every media outlet worth a damn (not simply once a year, mind you), I don’t know.

To stand as a symbol of national pride, I feel as though that symbol—be it a person or an event—has to be something that can be proudly broadcast to the world as something that anyone anywhere can identify with. Terry’s test, not only of will but of his physical self, is something that anyone anywhere has to respect. Terry died at the age of 22. Now that I’m familiar with the man’s story, I hope that I can share it as not only a source of human triumph, but as a source of my native country’s symbols of identity. For myself, I hope that I can add that bit of history to the stack of information filed under: “If they can do it, you can do it too.”