By Akshyah Kumar
On 26th August at 8 am, the Open Air Theatre in IITM was packed with an assortment of people ranging from senior citizens to students. Despite heavy rains, 15,000 people turned up for the event. The air was charged with a sense of goodwill and excitement as the Terry Fox Run, Chennai 2012 began. The event is the dream child of Terrance Stanley “Terry” Fox, the Canadian hero whose epic battle against cancer initiated The Marathon Of Hope, thus changing the face of cancer as we know it.
“I am not a dreamer. But I believe in miracles. I have to.”
And it was this belief that moulded Terry Fox into this hero. Born and raised in Port Quitclaim on Canada’s West coast, Terry Fox was extremely determined with a passion for basketball. Diagnosed with Osteogenic Sarcoma (or bone cancer) at the age of 18, his right leg was amputated six inches above the knee in 1977. Despite the handicap, he did not despair. The plight of cancer victims motivated him to channelize his energy for their betterment. “It took cancer for me to realize that being self-centred is not the way to live. The answer is to try and help others”, he said.
And to this purpose he decided to run across the country in the hopes of raising enough money for cancer research. On April 12th 1980, he started his run from St. John’s, Newfoundland. Christened as ‘The Marathon Of Hope’, it slowly gathered enough popularity to warrant the attention of all his countrymen. But he was forced to cut it short when the cancer cells started invading his lungs. Soon after, his body succumbed to cancer and he breathed his last at the age 22. While the whole country of Canada and many others elsewhere mourned his death, his legacy had just begun.
The Terry Fox Run is now held every year in over 600 cities in 53 countries and is responsible for raising over $600 million for cancer research. The Marathon of Hope, a lifeline to hundreds around the globe, also served its purpose in Chennai. Seventeen year old Akash Dube, diagnosed with cancer, followed Terry’s footsteps. He ideated the Terry Fox Run Chennai in 2009, and organized two subsequent runs in 2010 and 2011, helping raise Rs.50 lakh. He was helped by IITM and the Rotary Club of East Madras. The first run saw the participation of over 1300 people and was organized by a team of 50 volunteers from IIT madras at the YMCA College grounds. Participation increased steadily over the years and this year saw around 15,000 participants.
The run started at OAT going around Gajendra Circle and passing through the Biotech department, the hostels and finally returning back to OAT. While most preferred jogging and running, many others especially children were seen on skates and cycles. It was not uncommon to see a mother pushing a pram! Back at the stadium, the t-shirts sold quickly, and the event raised Rs. 2.5 lakh, 1.5 lakh more than last year’s run. The money will be donated to the Tata Memorial Hospitals to aid them in cancer research.
“The Terry Fox Run is a place where the youth learn about the realities of life which no sermons or lectures can teach”, said Mr. Badrinarayan, Chairperson of the Organizing committee. Cancer survivors addressed the audience, stressing on the importance of being determined to fight cancer. Both Terry Fox and Akash Dube firmly believed that the best way to tackle cancer is to ensure its prevention. There is a long way to go, and the run has just begun.