Lake Country native Rejeanne Droppo can still remember the day that Terry Fox ran through her community on his Marathon of Hope, beginning what would become an annual fundraiser in his name that has raised close to $700 million for cancer research over the past 35 years.
Droppo was an elementary school kid in Lake Country, and like most kids who run the Terry Fox run year after year, likely didn’t know much about the devastating effects of cancer.
Now 40 and a mother of two who has been cancer free for five years, Droppo will run this Sunday’s Terry Fox Run with her own daughters, who in turn will be running to support their Mom, a Terry’s Team Member and one of thousands and thousands of cancer survivors who will take part in various Terry Fox runs across Canada.
This year’s Terry Fox Run takes place Sunday at UBCO. Registration is at 9:30 and the race begins at 11 a.m. There will be live music before and after as well as a BBQ and free parking.
“I remember seeing him running down the highway,” said Droppo, married and living in Kelowna. “I can’t even describe in words or fathom what he did. From minute to minute what he had to endure. Putting one step in front of another. One step at a time. Every morning he had to get up and he just kept going. I think it’s amazing. He set a goal and he just kept going.”
Terry Fox was diagnosed with cancer in 1977 and soon after had his right leg amputated above the knee. His Marathon of Hope took place in 1980 with the objective of informing Canadians of the importance of finding a cure for cancer. He ran an average of 42 kilometers every day for 143 days before he was forced to end his run when cancer spread to his lungs. He passed away in June of 1981.
But the legacy of this true Canadian hero lives on every year in schools across B.C. and the rest of Canada as school children take part in Terry Fox runs. And it lives on in people like Rejeanne Droppo and other Terry’s Team Members, cancer survivors who run in Terry’s name.
Twelve years ago Droppo was on a personal high. She had just gotten engaged and her life was in full swing when she found a lump on her neck. She didn’t think much of it but when she found another lump in her armpit, she knew she had to get checked out. It was cancer. Hodgkin’s Disease. And all of the sudden life was not was it used to be.
“I remember asking the doctor with the medication I had to take, would I be able to have kids. To think for a period of time that that option might be taken away was really scary,” said Droppo. “Now I think how lucky I am to have these two girls that are amazing. They know my story. In school, almost every kid has someone they are running for. Cancer has touched so many lives. The children write who they are running for on their name tags and both my daughters put ‘My Mom’ on their tags. To see that was pretty special.”
This Sunday Droppo will have her family at her side as they take part in the 35th anniversary running of the Terry Fox Run. For the first time it will take place at the UBC Okanagan campus and will include live bands to open and close the race as well as a celebratory BBQ lunch.
For Droppo it will be with a lot of pride that she takes part as a Terry’s Team member and cancer survivor.
“It really does make me proud to be able to support it and also proud that Terry’s family has continued his legacy and kept it true to what he wanted,” she said. “It’s about fundraising and research as opposed to creating a bigger entity. It’s about family. It makes me proud on a lot of levels. It’s worth supporting.”
Registration takes place at 9:30 a.m. and you don’t have to pre-register. The race begins at 11 a.m. at UBCO.