I just wish people would realize anything’s possible if you try.” ~Terry Fox

“The doctor sat at his small desk and turned to Ron. ‘If this is what I think it is, it’s too heinous to mention. He should really be seen by a specialist that could deal with…what I think it is.’

Chapter Four, The Man Behind the Marathons by Elaine Cougler.

This is the place where I left off in Part IV of this five-part series of posts about Terry Fox and Ron Calhoun. Today is the final part of the series, written to commemorate this 40th anniversary of the Marathon of Hope.

Terry began to cough blood just before he reached Thunder Bay, Ontario and wrote about it in his journal. He hoped he could keep going but the signs were that he would not be able to. His parents flew in to Thunder Bay and accompanied Terry back to Vancouver and the Royal Columbian Hospital.

Ron was still managing the Marathon of Hope even though Terry was getting treatment and not on the road. CTV ran a massive telethon to carry on Terry’s goal. Ron was in Toronto for the days leading up to that tremendous event. He watched the planning go ahead, from the huge wall-sized grid lined off to record the people coming to perform, to listening to one-sided phone conversations as employees made and fielded calls involving performers anxious to help. He told me it was a thrilling time.

“CTV news anchor Lloyd Robertson hosted the telethon on September 9, 1980 and in that five hours Marathon of Hope donations exploded. Famous singer Elton John happened to be in the area and performed on the show, part of the outpouring of support from performers and donors.

Another Canadian icon there that night was Canadian television personality Barbara Frum who also was fighting cancer at the time. Ron and Barbara were strangers but they shared a common bond with Terry and their different connections to the disease. She told him, “My biggest worry is the train will pull out and I might not be there.” Ron contemplated her strange words for a long time; he felt she was really saying she had a lot to accomplish before she died.”

Chapter Four, The Man Behind the Marathons by Elaine Cougler.

Ron and Fran (his wife) drove the Marathon of Hope motorhome from Thunder Bay across the rest of Canada to Port Coquitlam in BC.  They experienced first-hand the love that Canadians and the world had for Terry.

He [Ron] pointed the motorhome toward the poplar and spruce-lined Trans Canada highway as Fran settled into the seat beside him.

“Port Coquitlam, here we come. The Terry Fox adventure continues,” she said. “Did you ever think it would be this huge?”

Ron just shook his head.

Early in their journey the Calhouns noticed something strange happening on the Trans Canada highway across the Prairies. Not one vehicle passed them. When Ron looked in the rearview mirror he was amazed that a long, long line of vehicles stretched out behind him as far as he could see. People simply would not pass the motorhome. The only way Ron could relieve the congestion was to pull over to the side of the road. Then the vehicles would drive past the motorhome very slowly—almost reverently—and look at the vehicle, and proceed on.

“Look at that lineup. I feel like I’m leading a funeral procession.” Ron shook his head.

“It’s for Terry. We’ll have to make sure he knows about this. When we get there, I mean.”

“Look at that sign in the window. ‘We love Terry’. Wonderful!”

“It’s all coloured. Those kids in the backseat must have done that.” Fran reached across Ron and waved.

Once the long line of traffic had passed, Ron and Fran pulled the motorhome back onto the road, in a pattern they would repeat often over the next couple of days.

Chapter Four, The Man Behind the Marathons by Elaine Cougler.

Terry’s hope to get back on the road was never realized but his story so moved people all over the world that his dream of raising one dollar for every person in Canada (about 24,000,000 at the time) was more than reached. Today approximately $800,000,000 has been raised and the Terry Fox Foundation is alive and very well. Both Terry and Ron started something that exploded for good. By the way, today those who get osteogenic sarcoma do not have their leg removed. The cancer is treated and the young person goes on with his life. Terry would be proud and Ron definitely was.

Click on the image below to purchase The Man Behind the Marathons and get the whole story.



Tags: , , ,