Here I was again, a Terry Fox fan seeking to emulate my hero – another September 17th Terry Fox Run had arrived. I bullied my Mariners fold-up bike into the trunk of my car, and on the seventh violent attempt I slammed it shut. I was cycling today with my daughter and her two kids. In a triumph of determination over coordination I tore my wee bike out of the trunk once I’d arrived at their place and met my family with as big a smile as I could muster. Was my bike even roadworthy? I’d soon find out.
My grand-daughter was ready on her little pink bike emblazoned with Cinderella and decorated with pink streamers; my daughter was ready with hers – a new bike, her tires as thin as hoola hoops – she sat high in the saddle; my grandson was likewise perched high with a give-no-quarter competitiveness about him …. and then there was me, with a pedal that wouldn’t stay horizontal and a chain that slipped off as soon as I began to wobble gingerly out of the driveway.
Even when we got to the park my grand-daughter was still hopping up and down on the seat’s diminutive surface. Everybody there was suited up – runners, walkers, cyclists – and a woman was speaking inaudibly through a ‘loudspeaker’. Most people, considering it was a national event, were models of restraint. The street outside the park was thronged with weather-resistant families and ‘encouragers’ in green t-shirts who had volunteered to show us the route. There were the runners, some poseurs with wraparound shades and expensive attire among them, stretching and chatting in low, discreet tones….but soon they were off! I followed my daughter to the registration sign-up table where I reluctantly donated a sum of money. Never mind, I thought, I could do far worse today than align myself with my plucky little family, especially a seven year old girl on a pink bestreamered bicycle! Nose to the handlebars and skinny little thighs pushing the pedals, that wee road warrior was off through the rainforest. There we went down a wide path enhanced by low-hanging cedar branches plus kids and parents wearing weird disguises and herding excitable dogs – what’s not to like? The path eventually thinned out and led to the road, and still those pistoning young knees kept going. “Was ‘Fox’ Terry’s nickname?” she wanted to know. We were going downhill at this point – here it was fast enough to get a breeze going down your front and hold a conversation….but I was getting a trifle annoyed at my clodhopping bike with no gears. I hoped the event would end before my ankles melted. Here was pain with no gain. Whoever it was who said that it was better to travel than arrive had never tried a Terry Fox Run in a second-hand Mariners bike.
Back at the park we were ‘treated’ to pancakes by the Lions Club. And my grand-daughter was still in a good mood! There’d been no “can I have a rest now?” In fact, she’d succeeded in the ultimate sporting event of her life! The runners returned – I’m sure there had been some glittering cameo performances among them, but this is Canada and a new venue and there had been no hype.
Weighed down with the heavy pancakes but uplifted by the morning sun we made our way home, many of my thoughts circling around Terry Fox and cancer. I especially thought about Terry’s on-the-road coverage during his Marathon of Hope and his gutsiness. The chasm between the vibrant morning I’d had with my kids and the worrisome future I faced yawned hugely before me, because I’ve just had cancer. It’s a remorseless creature determined to grow bigger, greedily using up more and more of our most precious resource: energy. It’s on a quest to colonize, dominate and bend the body’s cells to its perverted will. As mankind is damaging the life-support systems of the planet, so cancer kills and destroys the body. It respects no boundaries, no natural laws; and when powerful outside forces invade the body on a mission to kill it off, it changes just enough to outwit them. And like cancer cells we somehow believe we can by-pass natural laws. Scientists are warning us that if we keep indulging in destructive practices the planet will become inhospitable to us in mere decades, like the parasite killing its host.
Anyway, I’m heading back to my daughter’s, hoping she’ll make me a double espresso, part of a balanced cycling diet. And I thank God for perfect cycling conditions and benign gradients in the roads and pathways, all this before the chocolate-coloured clouds roll in.