Sunday, 19 June 2011

Betty Fox

Does the name Terry Fox mean anything to you?

I can guarantee that it does to every Canadian. He was voted number two on the CBC's "Greatest Canadians" list. Those of us who went through the Canadian school system participated in annual Terry Fox runs. Most probably know his trademark hop-jump running style and have heard about the foundation his mother and brother set up after his death. Many may have even seen the movie about his life or can still sing the refrain to the earwormingly catchy song.

I was only two years old when Terry lost his battle with Cancer, but family lore says that I saw him - apparently we drove by him running along the highway one overcast and rainy day.

Years later I suddenly announced at breakfast that I wanted my mother, fighting her own battle with Cancer, to come to school with me that day, to attend a school-wide assembly. My mother questioned me about it, but I was embarrassed about explaining why. I couldn't put it into words but I remained firm in my desire to have her there. Amazingly patient, my mother believed her daughter and rearranged her schedule for the day so that she could attend the assembly.

My mother wasn't the only mother there that day. The guest of honour was Betty Fox, Terry's mother. She was there on behalf of the Foundation to personally accept a cheque for the large amount my school had raised in our annual Terry Fox run. She spoke briefly about Terry and his battle but I'm rather embarrassed to admit I don't remember much of what she said.

After the assembly ended I gave my mother a hug to than her for coming before I had to head back to class and she had to go back to work. I don't remember talking to her about it afterwards, again I was probably embarrassed to actually discuss the big 'C.' But over a decade later, after she too had lost her battle with Cancer, I found a letter she had written me after she went home from the assembly. In it she grumbled gently a bit that I had sprung my request on her, but thanked me for insisting she be there. She said that as somebody battling that horrible disease it meant a lot to her to be there, and she thanked me for sharing it with her. Hearing Betty Fox speak meant a lot to my mother, she was honored to be there.

It was that incident that I thought of yesterday when I heard that Betty Fox had passed away. She continued to be an advocate for Cancer funding right into her 70s - she was one of the flag bearers at the 2010 Olympics and she and her husband carried the torch into the stadium in the lighting ceremony for the Paralympics that followed. Although her son's dream of erradicating Cancer has yet to be realized, Betty did so much to raise awareness of the disease and funds for research. She, like her son, was a great Canadian.


  1. Okay, Sarah, that's two posts in a row you have had me in tears. Again, beautifully written, straight from the heart. I'm so sorry to hear that you lost your mother to cancer. We thank God every day that my mother won her battle against that horrible disease (16 years and counting), thanks to people like Betty Fox and her son. Let's all keep fighting the good fight.

  2. Clare Maree - for various reasons I've avoided talking about my mum much on this blog. But hearing about Betty Fox brought back that memory so strongly... I'm glad your mother has won her battle - 16 years is very impressive!!

  3. and here I was thinking I'd almost got through a whole day without tears. What a lovely post - if that's the right word. Probably not but thankyou for writing it anyway. I have no idea who Terry or Betty are but I am now going to have to read up.

  4. GW - Sorry! I wasn't trying to make you (or anybody else) cry! (although I do admit that reading that letter from my mum had me bawling!) I am glad you, especially, appreciated it.

    Yes, please do read up about Betty and Terry Fox - terribly inspiring people. It is amazing what some people can do when faced with the worst life can throw at them.

  5. Oh Sarah, you amazing one. Isn't it funny how sadness and beauty can be such exquisite companions? I can't image how sad it must have been for your mother to have to let go of you. (Kleenex break.) I have no doubt she would have been so very proud of you and so happy about how well you are living your life.
    love and hugs, C