Terry Fox Run returns to New Westminster on Sunday

Kathy Jones and her dog Artemis warm up for Sunday
Kathy Jones and her dog Artemis warm up for Sunday's annual Terry Fox Run in Queen's Park.

When Terry Fox dipped his prosthetic leg in the Atlantic Ocean in Newfoundland, symbolizing the start of his Marathon of Hope across Canada, Kathy Jones, then a 22-year-old medical student, felt inspired by his courage.

“He had a big dream that captured the hearts of all Canadians,” said Jones, who’s been doing the run every year since then.

Thirty-one years after watching Fox on TV, he’s still her hero. Only now, it’s personal. Jones is a family doctor in New Westminster who’s seen many patients, as well as her own father go through cancer.

“It’s a heart-sinking feeling to realize that an investigation suggests cancer,” said Jones. “Though I have reason to be optimistic. I believe that research is the answer. Terry Fox believed there would be a cure. Even in 25 years as a doctor, I’ve seen tremendous improvement.”

Despite a career that often keeps her busy delivering babies all night, she volunteers for the Terry Fox Foundation, which raises money for cancer research. Since 2009, she’s been organizing the annual run in Queen’s Park.

Her belief that cancer research saves lives is based on evidence from her own clinic.

The many patients that she has seen go through and survive breast cancer are examples of what raising not only money but also awareness can accomplish.

“The breast cancer story has evolved through my career and it’s getting better and better,” said Jones, adding that women’s advocacy on their own behalf has played a role in raising awareness and visibility.

“Women are incredibly empowered to take action and be heard, and are very effective at socializing and communicating,” said Jones.

She talked about several examples of her patients who have survived.

In 1994, a woman who was breast feeding went to her office with a breast infection. Jones’ heart sank, because she knew that it was a symptom of inflammatory breast cancer, a very aggressive form of the disease.

“I was sick at heart when I saw her, but she had a great response to radiation and had a full recovery.”

The success breast cancer research advocates have had in raising awareness and money can be an inspiration for those fighting other forms of the disease, said Jones, adding that prostate cancer research is experiencing its own revolution of awareness.

But there are still cancers that remain “invisible,” either because, like lung tumors, they’re hard to detect, or because they’re rare or not talked about.

Jones’ own father was a victim of lung cancer, also known as “the invisible cancer” because it shows no symptoms until it spreads.

A few weeks before his retirement, her father told her about numbness in his feet. She asked him about his arm, and he said it felt a little numb, too. Her father was a smoker, and Jones suspected he might have lung cancer that had spread to his brain. She was right. He passed away a few months later, and that reinforced her dedication to raising research awareness.

Despite many inspiring stories of people who’ve gone on to live normal lifespans after surviving cancer, Jones points out that the technical definition of “survival” is really only five years of post-tumour health.

Still, Jones said, research has come a long way since that sad day in Thunder Bay in 1980 when Terry Fox was forced to quit his cross-Canada run because his cancer had returned.

That progress can be credited in many ways to Fox himself. In the 31 years since the Marathon of Hope, the Terry Fox Foundation has collected $550 million dollars. Eighty-five cents of each dollar goes to cancer research.The run in Queen’s Park is small, but it’s growing every year.

In 2010, the Terry Fox Run in New Westminster raised $7,712 compared to $4,167 in 2009.

Jones hopes it’ll keep growing.

The Terry Fox Run at Queen’s Park is Sunday, Sept. 18. Registration is at 9 a.m. and the run starts at 10 a.m. There is no registration fee and funds are raised through donations. Food and refreshments will be provided.

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