Fox legacy strong in Penticton

Schools set for annual Terry Fox run this week in bid to keep cancer crusader's dream alive

Belle Grant walks with Audrie

Belle Grant walks with Audrie

Doug Alward met Terry Fox in elementary school in Port Coquitlam and they quickly became life-long friends.

In the decades since then, millions of young people have come to know Terry Fox during their school years.

Thursday, students and educators in Penticton will join others across the country in the National School Run Day to help make Terry’s dream of a world without cancer come true.

One vivid memory Alward has of those early days was his friend’s tenacity, especially in making the school basketball team.

“In Grade 8, every guy in the school went out for the team,” said Alward. “I always thought Terry was a terrible player, maybe a fifth or sixth string guard.”

Fortunately the coach at the time had a policy on not cutting any player if he showed up to practice and games.

Alward remembers Fox sitting at the end of the bench for two years without giving up.

Then one day he got his chance and never looked back, eventually becoming a starter and team captain.

Fox later told his friend he intended to make the Simon Fraser University basketball team as an unheralded walk-on, and did just that.

However, three months into the season Fox began having pain in his right knee. He was diagnosed with cancer and the leg was amputated.

“It was devastating,” said Alward.

“But he was not a quitter and even when he was having the cancer treatments, no matter how bad he felt, he would hide it from everybody.

“If you went to visit him he would get up, get dressed, sit up and put on a brave face.”

So it was no surprise to Alward when Fox announced to him he intended to run across the country on his artificial limb (far outdated by today’s standards) and raise a dollar from each Canadian to fight cancer

“I didn’t say to Terry it was impossible, I didn’t say anything at all,” said Alward. “I knew better.”

To this day, Alward still marvels at what has transpired, not just in Canada, but around the world as a result of the Marathon of Hope.

He described the 143 days on the road with Fox, driving the motorhome and working as chief cook and bottle washer, as the hardest thing in his life.

“I actually got the feeling he was going to run to his death and I felt my job was to prevent him from doing so,” said Alward.

He admitted being surprised when he read in Fox’s journal, which he only received a copy of about a month ago, about the agony Fox endured.

“He would never let on and I guess I was just so close to the whole thing I was just sort of numb,” said Alward.

“But thinking back, I guess I could see it in the faces of the people who stopped on the highway to watch, when they came to the van to donate money they were crying.”

Now, having read the journal and looking back when the marathon ended with the return of the cancer, he believed Fox knew in his heart he would not complete the journey.

“After the run ended they had a telethon that raised a dollar for every Canadian. Terry and I looked at it like God had a bigger plan for him,” said Alward. “Maybe it required Terry passing away to raise all that money to save and improve those thousands of lives.”

About that Fox wrote in his journal: “Even if I don’t finish, we need others to continue. It’s got to keep going without me.”