008: Why Did I Join a Run for Cancer Research?

I’ll be completely frank about myself. Charity has never been a natural part of my life and I would always wonder why it would be that way? I have friends from different backgrounds telling me about how their family was going to do some charity work at a shelter or they themselves would volunteer at their local government to help the needy – just because they – from the bottom of their hearts – wanted to.

Personally, I have no recollection of doing anything of the sort when I was younger… Would those money offerings at church be counted? How about donating clothes for victims that underwent natural calamities (on the other hand, that maybe was just a good excuse for my family and I to get rid of the hoarded piles of clothes at home that we didn’t really need anymore)? Other acts of charity that I believe I’ve done were maybe those related to school requirements… Like the time we went to an undeveloped part of a Philippine province during high school where our group prepared lunch and bonded with a mother and her children… Or that other time during university where we had to go to an elementary school every other week to teach underprivileged kids English.

A win-win situation, as some will call it… I would not have experienced these acts of charity if there were no obligation or condition – and this would always be something that bothered me to my core.

Now, I’m not saying that I wish I had a more altruistic upbringing – I can’t change the past. Though, being able to reflect on this fact, made me think a lot about how I’d want to effectively change this part of myself moving forward. How about doing such acts because you genuinely wanted to give back to a cause, Vera???

Let met tell you about one of the first things I did for 2018.

Last December, my good friend and colleague, Nikita, went up to my desk at work. “I have registered for the Terry Run”, she said. The question of her asking me to join her was barely stated, but I knew that she was looking for company from the dead air between us so I asked, “Where can I register?” She sent me the registration link through Messenger and left me to my bidding.

I admit – I didn’t know what exactly I was getting into and it took time for me (let’s say a few weeks after) to register. I’ve done runs before out of leisure and thought that it would be another good activity to do with a friend. Eventually, I clicked on the link and started filling out the details when curiosity struck…

Who was this Terry Fox guy, anyway?

I Google-d his name, jumped into a Wikipedia hole (more about this later), and came to the conclusion that he was a literal legend for cancer research. This pushed me to register for the run, almost immediately.

The event was held at the Abu Dhabi Corniche on January 19, 2018. Nikita and I met up between our apartment buildings and took the bus to the venue. The starting point was not very visible due to the lack of signage, however we were able to find the place by following civilians who looked like they signed up for the Terry Run as well. We confirmed our online registration, collected our pre-ordered t-shirts at the booth, and prepared for the start of the race. The plaza that hosted both starting and end markers were crowded with people. Some – contextually basing it from their customized Terry Fox shirts – came from companies and organizations, while others signed up as individuals like us. At 9:00 A.M. sharp, the run started.

It was an 8-kilometer distance – 4 kilometers out and another 4 kilometers going back in. At first the lanes were very congested, hence Nikita and I took our sweet time walking with everybody else. Though after a while we got tired waiting for the path to clear out that we sprinted to get better space. This went on every 5 to 10 minutes until we decided to just walk the majority of the time – people-watching other participants, from the committed runners to couples walking their dogs (the Terry Run isn’t that strict – aside from running, you are allowed to walk, bike, etc.)

Once we got to the final stretch, Nikita and I ran for our lives towards the finish line, greeted by the young volunteers with a job well done. We waited a long line to collect our certificates and made another donation before heading out for brunch.

Sounds like an ordinary event, right? Well, it was. But it was very memorable for both Nikita and I. It was different from those that I’ve attended in the past because I made an educated choice to be there, not just for myself, but for the 14 million people out there who are waiting on a cure for cancer.

Let me take you back to the aforementioned Wikipedia hole on Terry Fox in where I concluded that he was a literal legend for the cause in a good-sized nutshell:

remembering-terry-fox-22-year-old-cancer-patient
Terry on the path. Photo Credits: DocumentaryTube

Terry was a university athlete from Canada who was diagnosed with osteosarcoma after a car accident that left his right knee weak. Though despite the diagnosis, he still continued doing sports between chemo in the form of wheelchair basketball and running with a prosthetic leg, amongst others. He started the Marathon of Hope out of his anger on how little funds were given to cancer research during his time and hoped to raise awareness and money for the cause by running a cross-country trek from Newfoundland to British Columbia (for your reference, this was a distance of 4,416 kilometers, people). The marathon instantly made him an icon and brought the topic of cancer research to the limelight by numerous media, sponsors, and well-known entities. Unfortunately, he was not able to complete it when the cancer started to spread into his lungs. Despite the halt, he was still able to raise $23 million.

On June 28, 1981, less than a year after stopping the Marathon of Hope, Terry Fox passed away leaving a legacy that is now worth under $600 million. He was 22 years old.

There’s something about doing an act of love out of pure intent. Not because you had to… but because it’s the right thing to do. I didn’t do the Terry Run because Nikita was going, all right? I did the Terry Run because the $15 that I donated was going to be given to a cause that would hopefully provide a significant contribution to Terry’s withstanding vision for cancer research.

Terry Fox and the Sleeping Giant
One of the many memorials for Terry Fox in Canada. Photo Credits: Northern Ontario Travel

It’s people like Terry that inspire us to not take this life the way it currently it is, as it is. He would’ve been 60 years old today if a cure existed during that time. But he knew from within that this mission of bringing this issue to light was entrusted for him to follow through. He was a self-less fighter who wanted nothing but to help; to show people how serious this disease was and posthumously was successfully able to do so. If I didn’t do my research on the guy, I would’ve not found out about his story and write about this on my blog today.

There is depth in the saying, ‘it is better to give, than to receive’. Charity has always been this void in my life where you can say that when it comes to this subject; I’ve been living under a rock. I always thought that I’d need to be rolling with money to be able to give back (I know, it’s shallow, but I’m speaking my truth here), but after some time of contemplation, I realize that that’s not the case. I was living life without putting in the effort of being charitable in the beginning. The Terry Fox Run opened this door wherein it made me understand that opportunities to give back, someway, somehow, are present. It’s just a matter of doing your homework and finding a cause that you sincerely believe in (in this instance, being around people with good hearts, could also help you out too). Being able to participate in a simple event like this was euphoric for me because I knew that it was for something bigger than myself – that the simple act of walking would help someone, somewhere in a hospital bed whose heart is full of courage and hoping for a miracle.

There is so much more that we can do during this time of “we don’t know when our life will end’s”. I’m not saying you join the next charity that approaches you or what. Do your research and join a cause that truly speaks to you. No one expects you to become the next Mother Theresa, Martin Luther King, Jr., or even Terry Fox, himself. Though I do believe that we as humans are expected to deliver our own contribution of good to the world, in our own special way.  So start, if you haven’t, and let’s continue, if you already are.

Thanks for all you did, Terry. If y’all want to learn more about the Terry Fox Foundation, visit their site at www.terryfox.org. Totally worth checking out. 🙂

Check out my IG Story of that day below:

 

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