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Inspired by Terry Fox, they’re running across Canada

by Paula Moser

I had cancer. Well, I have cancer because once you have cancer, if you are lucky enough to survive the treatment, there is always the fear of recurrence.

I know, friends like to say “So, your cancer is gone now, right?” but “in remission” is more apt.  One never knows. But this isn’t about me. This is about six young men who do not have cancer and one young man who died of cancer 38 years ago. The man who died was Terry Fox, a Canadian hero.

He didn’t start out to be a hero but his courage and determination made him one. At 18 Terry Fox was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a type of bone cancer. His right leg was amputated, he endured 18 months of chemotherapy and then he decided to raise funds and awareness for cancer research by running across Canada. He started in St. John’s and ended in Thunder Bay when his cancer spread to his lungs forcing him to stop. Since his death, The Terry Fox Foundation has raised over $700 million for cancer research.

Now, back to the six young men I mentioned — CEGEP and university students, all between 20 and 21, who met at track meets in high school. They study science, mathematics, film, education, and in their spare time they run. Apparently running wasn’t enough for them. They wanted their running to mean something and so they run to raise money for cancer research.

At 15, Akshay Grover ran to Toronto and raised money for childhood cancers. At 18 he recruited three friends and they ran to Washington and raised over $14,000 for the Terry Fox Foundation and now, inspired by Terry Fox, they are going to run across Canada. They want to raise at least $50,000 and cancer patients like me applaud them. More, we jump for joy and bow in awe and most importantly, we support them! Because the research supported by the Terry Fox Foundation is having an impact. It is finding better treatments, earlier detection, and improved survival rates. It is, in the words of Terry Fox, giving us hope.

The team calls themselves The Montreal Runners. Team leader Akshay is a communications student at Concordia. He will practise his skills by creating a documentary of their experience this summer.

Twins Marc-André Blouin and Mathieu Blouin are both at Concordia studying actuarial math and independent studies. They are looking for adventure and solutions. This summer they will get both — an adventure of a lifetime and a solution to cancer. Keiston Herchel, a science student at Dawson College is looking to help others. Muhan Patel and Michael Davies are both education students at McGill. They both like challenges. I’m sure this summer will give them one.

They will run from Montreal to Vancouver from June 1 to July 1. To accomplish this in one month, they will run 180 km a day, 30 km each. No breaks. They will get up at 5:30am run until they finish their 180 km, then collapse for a few hours and start all over again. They will run in the rain, the sun, and perhaps amid the mosquitoes when they reach Winnipeg. They will run through Ontario, across the prairies and then just when they think they can’t do it anymore they will have to run through the Rockies. And they will suffer. I have no doubt they will want to quit but these guys seem determined. As Akshay says “at the end of Terry’s run, he had covered over 5000 km. We will only have done 4,632 km or 772 km each.”

Along the way, five of them will follow the current runner in a van they are borrowing from an uncle. They are looking for a second van as they need to have two runners at a time in order to be able to complete 180 km in a day. They have no chauffeurs so they will take turns driving in between their runs. They have no cheering crowds like the marathoners, no fancy hotels or massage clinics like the Olympic athletes, and no police escorts. They will take the smaller highways, but this is still dangerous at times.

All of this costs money. They have a grant from John Abbott College and they are selling T-shirts and holding fundraisers to raise more. Some hotels have offered them a room along the way but they will also be camping. Imagine setting up camp at 9pm after running all day!

“Why cancer?” I ask Akshay. None of them have had cancer or had a family member with cancer. “This is about Canadians helping Canadians,” Akshay says. “It’s about taking a moment to step outside ourselves in joining a cause greater than ourselves. It is about service above self.”

They are inspired by the Terry Fox legacy and let’s hope they never have to use the results of the research they are supporting. These young men are not setting out to be heroes but to all of us cancer patients they already are.

To learn more or to donate, visit runtovancouver.com. There you can watch the film they made about their run to Washington. You can also follow the run on their Facebook and Instagram pages The Montreal Runners. More importantly you can encourage them with a little donation. You can also donate at terryfox.ca/montrealrunners. We’ve all been touched by cancer in some way — this is a cause we can all relate to!

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