Terry Fox Run continues to create hope

There's still time to register for the virtual Terry Fox Run in Tillsonburg on Sept. 20. Participants will create their own routes - at their own times. (Chris Abbott/Norfolk Tillsonburg News/File Photo)

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Terry Fox Run signs are now up in Tillsonburg, a reminder there is still time to join on Sunday, Sept. 20 or make an online donation.

“Everyone can participate, absolutely,” said Shelley Imbeault, Tillsonburg Terry Fox Run co-ordinator. “There’s still time to sign up, there’s still time to donate.”

Now in its 40th year, the Run is a fundraiser for the Terry Fox Foundation, which raises money for cancer research (www.terryfox.org).

Fox, who was diagnosed with bone cancer in 1977 and had his right leg amputated just above the knee, decided to run across Canada to raise money for cancer research in 1980. By Feb. 1, 1981, he had realized his dream of raising $1 for every Canadian ($24.17 million).

The 22-year-old athlete was forced to end his marathon near Thunder Bay on Sept. 1, 1980. He died in June 1981, the year of the first Terry Fox Run.

Seven years later, the Terry Fox Run became a Trust, independent from the Canadian Cancer Society, and each year it has raised close to $20 million for discovery-based research in Canada.

This year, the main difference locally is that instead of starting and finishing three-kilometre, five-kilometre or 10-kilometre routes at the Tillsonburg Soccer Club, participants will run, walk or ride their own routes on Sept. 20.

“Even though we won’t be congregating together, there’s still a bunch of us that are going to do the Run,” said Imbeault. “We’ll just be on different routes.”

It’s a special time of year for Imbeault, who was diagnosed with Wilms’ tumour, the most common type of kidney cancer in children, in the spring of 1980.

“My 40th anniversary of remission happens in 2021 because I was just starting treatment when he started his Marathon of Hope. One of the research programs funded by Terry Fox actually was part of my treatment plan. So when they were looking at the effects of radiation on children, I was one of the children. I was able to get radiation treatment before it was available because of the money that was raised by Terry Fox that year.”

When she signed up, it was ‘for life.’ Imbeault is still participating in the original therapy program. “Every year I go in for a doctor’s appointment and they assess everything. They make sure that the side effects that I got from radiation… have been taken into account. Because of that, they do it very, very differently today. When I had radiation therapy done originally, you were put in a big machine and your entire body was radiated instead of just the pinpoint, the way they do it now to just specific areas of the body.”

The full-body radiation treatment caused damage to her brain stem, bladder and lungs.

“They used that information and they’ve changed how they do it now for children.

“Because I was able to get that radiation, I can have this conversation today. (Wilms’ tumour), that was certain death for most children.

“Anyone who knows me personally believes in cancer research because it does work. Now, I meet children who have Wilms’ tumour who haven’t even had to have radiation therapy, which to me is unbelievable.

“So there is hope. There is always hope.”

cabbott@postmedia.com

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