When my son Kyle was 5, he was diagnosed with Ewing's Sarcoma (a bone cancer similar to Terry Fox's) in his right thigh. Life changed immediately and dramatically. Until then we had been watching Kyle learn to play hockey (with more enthusiasm than skill!). Suddenly we were faced with learning about highly toxic drugs that he needed to save his life. Kyle endured 13 months of chemo and 10 operations to save his leg. He lost his hair, lost his appetite, spent much of his time in a hospital bed or a wheelchair, and suffered "life-threatening episodes" when his white blood cell count dropped fearfully low and his temperature would spike. There were many times we didn't dare imagine life at 14.
However, we were always hopeful that Kyle would recover because successful treatments had been developed. Had Kyle been diagnosed in 1980 when Terry Fox had his cross-country run, his chance of survival would have been approximately 30%. In 1998, Kyle was given a promising 80% chance of recovery. Research is truly making a difference.
This summer, Kyle played golf, basketball and baseball, and enjoyed camp. He is now in Grade 11 at Cawthra Park Secondary School. He wears a shoe lift and a leg brace to make up for the difference in his leg length. In September 2007, Kyle underwent another operation to try and improve his leg length difference, so his participation in the September 17 Terry Fox Run was in a wheelchair. He continues to speak on behalf of the Terry Fox Run Foundation because we still need to find safer and more effective treatments.
… I just thought you might like to hear about what our school did for our Terry Fox Run this year. We are a small elementary school of just over 300 students, yet we managed to raise $5 940 this year for the Terry Fox Foundation. Traditionally we ask our students to each donate a “Toonie for Terry” and to earn that toonie by doing something around the house. We also have pledge forms available for our older students to raise money. This year, I challenged the students to raise a dollar for every kilometer that Terry actually ran (5375, I believe), and that if they did, I would dye my hair pink.
However, this year, our Grade Six classes decided to do some additional fundraising on their own, and organized a “Carnival for the Cure”. At the lunch hour on the day of the Terry Fox Run, they sold popcorn, popsicles and did face painting. As well, students could buy a metre of duct tape to tape one of our teachers and a couple of students to the wall. From this event, the Grade Sixes raised over $500.
We are very proud of our students’ efforts this year, and we thought that you might appreciate hearing one of the stories that this run inspires.Yours truly,
Crawford Plains School, Alberta
Rick Durst has been running for cancer research since receiving a diagnosis of incurable cancer, 19 years ago. Since 1991 he has participated in the Terry Fox Run in various venues, including Bracebridge and Sandbanks Provincial Park, personally raising over $250,000, thanks to his many generous supporters.
In 1991, Rick had persistent leg pain prompting a visit to a chiropractor. After two treatments, he was advised to have a CAT scan which revealed a tumor in his lower back. “I had surgery on my back at Toronto Western Hospital and the diagnosis was an incurable blood based cancer, B-Cell Lymphoma. I was given no longer than five years to live”, says Rick, who was 37, at the time. “I had radiation to eradicate the tumor (not all of the growth could be removed during surgery) and that was the beginning of my journey as the systemic disease was sadly active.”
A few weeks after the surgery, Rick ran his first Terry Fox Run in Toronto. “When I started to fundraise I realized it gave my friends an opportunity to show their support for me, and what a boost it gave me.”
Rick is a strong supporter of the Terry Fox Run because all of its proceeds are directed to cancer research, and because of the very low administration costs of The Terry Fox Foundation. It was a research program that has allowed him to long outlive his original prognosis. “I went to Princess Margaret Hospital and Toronto General and they said they had done all they could for me. They basically said go home and die. Not prepared to give in, my own research led me to a leading-edge program at Sunnybrook Hospital. Today I’m happy and healthy. Because of research, there are new drugs and treatments being developed that are more effective with most cancers."
Rick continues, “Currently, there is no therapy to eradicate B Cell Lymphoma, unlike many other classes of Lymphoma. Although there is no cure, the improved treatments have kept me from being six feet under. There is better treatment today, better radiation, and better chemicals due to cancer research.” Although there is still no “cure for cancer”, improved methods of treatment, new drugs with higher efficacy and lower side effects are improving quality of life and saving lives. Not throwing up during treatment is a gift when you are in the fight of your life,” says Rick. "And I appreciate the fact that the vast majority of the money I raise for Terry Fox goes directly to research, and not to administrative costs. "