It started as an innocent looking email from the Terry Fox Organization. I had participated in the Terry Fox Run as a kid in school, but also more recently for the last 12 years since going through my own cancer journey. I’d never done a hike to the top of a mountain of this magnitude before. I was intrigued. I soon decided I could do this and started a training plan that expanded upon my usual 10k running, but also included going up and down thousands of stairs. None of this training prepared me for the emotional journey I was about to take up Terry Fox Mountain.
I consider myself very lucky in many ways, first of all for surviving cancer, but in other ways as well. I grew up in a small town in southern Ontario and I got to see Terry as he passed through our town. I was only 7 years old, but remember my brothers and I jumping on our bikes to see this ‘one legged man who had cancer’ and was running across Canada!
I met a ‘new’ member of Terry’s team at the bottom of the mountain only 10 minutes into my trek who seemed to be struggling a bit with his new reality. I shared my own cancer story with him and tried to leave him with a sense of optimism and hope. Little did I know that this encounter would be my source of inspiration and strength for the day’s (at times) gruelling hike. As a cancer survivor, sometimes I feel all I can do to help is reach out to others to try to ease their suffering.
Once we got above the tree line out in the open, we were in fog, in a cloud. This continued for the rest of the day and diminished our views from the mountain. As I was trudging up the trail this had me thinking about the parallels with cancer. Cancer is indiscriminate and does not care who it hits, or when. It doesn’t wait for a sunny day, or a day when it might be convenient to you. It just hits you when it wants to. Like the fog on this day, I didn’t let it discourage me and I made it to the summit. I defeated the summit with the same willpower and positive attitude that I used to beat cancer.
It was an incredible feeling making it to the summit of a mountain that was named after our greatest Canadian hero ,Terry Fox, and doing it beside Terry’s brother Fred. We had a short break on the summit to take pictures, sign the ‘guestbook,’ and have a snack before we started back down.
The hardest part of the day was over, but there was still a 4 to 5 hour thigh burning decent. The pain was real, but I often put it into perspective by comparing it to what Terry would have endured, day in and day out running a marathon a day, for days on end.
My pain was nothing.
This part of the hike seemed to pass quickly. We soon found ourselves at the trailhead where we congratulated each other on a great day, in the shadow of the trailhead marker that reads “YOUR LEGACY LIVES ON TERRY”.
I was so glad to be part of the 2016 Trek. It was inspiring to meet several of Terry’s family members who are involved in the Terry Fox Organization, carrying the torch, keeping Terry’s Dream alive.
Alan Maclean – Terry’s Team Member, Trek participant