Monday, November 2, 2009
The Terry Fox Run 2009, Kuala Lumpur
If you were faced with a debilitating disease, what would you do? If you were informed that you had a terminal illness, or had to lose a limb, what would your response be?
Terrance Stanley Fox (Terry Fox) was a sports-loving young man who was only 19 when he was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a form of cancer for which the causes are still largely unknown. Upon diagnosis, the only known way to treat the cancer was to amputate young Terry's right leg several inches above the knee.
At the age of 22, Terry Fox established the Marathon of Hope. He decided to run from coast to coast in Canada with the objective of raising $1 from each Canadian citizen for cancer research. Terry Fox had run 5,085 kilometres by the end of his training, in preparation for the Marathon of Hope. This was in spite of his existing heart condition, left ventricular hypertrophy.
Terry Fox began the Marathon of Hope at the Newfoundland coast. He intended to finish in Victoria, British Columbia. Sadly, Terry Fox never completed the Marathon of Hope. His cancer had metastasized to his lungs and he had to stop running after 143 days. Terry Fox died on 28th June, 1981.
But Terry Fox's courage and spirit lives on in the Terry Fox Run, which has evolved into a worldwide event to raise funds for cancer research, to commemorate the determined young activist who died too soon and as a show of solidarity and support for those affected by or who had lost their lives to cancer.
The Terry Fox Run is exceptional in that it has no corporate sponsorship, is non-competitive, and has no winners or awards. The purpose of the Run is to create public awareness and raise funds for cancer research. The Terry Fox Run was first held in Malaysia in the early 1990s, and Malaysians, ever generous, have never failed to show support for the event by participating in ever-increasing numbers.
I arrived too late to assemble with the rest of the participants, but it is never too late to join in the Run! There is no registration requirement. Participants merely have to purchase the t-shirts for RM25.00.
Let’s follow the high-spirited crowd to the Lake Gardens. Participants can skate, walk, run, bike or even ride in prams, if too young!
A capoeira troupe lends a South American flavour to our Sunday morning run at the Lake Gardens.
Leisure boats cruise lazily along the waterways in the Lake Gardens as we jog the final 100 metres to the finishing point.
T-shirts for sale to support the cause of cancer research.
Mounted City Hall officers on horseback to keep order at the Lake Gardens.
Years ago, the cause of ‘cancer research’ would be one that would not rest easily on my animal-loving conscience. Would it entail gratuitous cruelty to animals? Could vivisection ever be justified? Is it ever right to put animals through prolonged suffering? In the last few years, I have come to terms with the fact that animal testing could be categorised into ‘unnecessary’ and ‘justifiable’ testing and research. In addition, since it is always animals with immune responses that are the most similar to human’s that are used in medical research, perhaps advances in cancer research could bring progress to the field of veterinary oncology as well. Also, I am persuaded that cancer research in the last decade or so entails more sophisticated techniques than merely animal testing. Human genome research and human cell and tissue culture testing are all growing alternatives to animal testing.
Cancer knows no political or geographical boundaries. The Terry Fox Run doesn’t, either. Whatever cancer research necessitates, we must acknowledge that more research is required to ensure that cancer can be prevented, treated and managed. Available statistics reveal that cancer causes an estimated 13% of human deaths. The price of inaction is simply too high. For this reason, I salute the heroism, courage and resolve of Terry Fox, who never gave up, who had faith in himself when no one else did. And I salute all the Malaysians who gave up their Sunday morning to run in loving memory of those who had succumbed to cancer, in solidarity with those who live with cancer, and in celebration of the indomitable attitude of a young man who never said die.