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Calgary rallies together for future without cancer

The annual Terry Fox Run and Curefest put funding cancer research in the spotlight

Riley Straroba, 2, wears a shirt at Curefest Calgary 2017 that says 'Caleb's Courage' in memory of her cousin who died at age four of stage 4 neuroblastoma, the day before she was born.

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ELIZABETH CAMERON

Riley Straroba, 2, wears a shirt at Curefest Calgary 2017 that says 'Caleb's Courage' in memory of her cousin who died at age four of stage 4 neuroblastoma, the day before she was born.

Bret ‘The Hitman’ Hart remembers when one of his heroes, Terry Fox, started the Marathon of Hope on April 12, 1980.

Hart also remembers when Fox, who lost a leg to cancer at age 18, didn’t complete his cross-Canada journey.

“He was an inspiration to me as a young kid,” Hart told Metro at the 2017 Terry Fox Run in Calgary. “Like a lot of Canadians, there will always be a connection to what he was trying to do.”

Fox’s memory is alive and well more than 30 years later because of the annual runs he inspired, held in hundreds of communities across the country each September.

The Terry Fox Foundation donates 82 cents of every dollar raised directly to cancer research. Hart believes this year’s run and its predecessors will add up to a future without cancer one day.

“When you think of Terry Fox, you think of a Canadian kid that dreamed really big," Hart said. “It’s gotten so much bigger that he ever would have imagined. I think he’d be really proud of that.”

Hart, a former pro-wrestler and celebrity spokesperson for Calgary’s run, not only lost his brother to prostate cancer earlier in 2017 but faced his own fight with the same disease last year.

He credits his life to early detection.

“Looking back now, unfortunately, my brother Smith didn’t get checked … and by the time he found out he had prostate cancer, it had spread down his hips and down to his femur,” Hart said.

His message is simple:

“Men over 40, it’s so vital and so critical to get your blood work done,” the former pro-wrestler said.

Shortly after the run began at the Tesus Spark, Curefest was getting underway on St. Patrick’s Island.

The international movement raises awareness about childhood cancers and was brought to Calgary by 12-year-old Natasha Gould, who died in 2016 from brain cancer.

Her parents, Saskia Van Breevoort Gould and Bill Gould, organized the event to bring together everyone in Calgary who’s involved in the fight against childhood cancers.

One of them, Dr. Aru Narendran, spoke about his work as a pediatrician and oncologist at the University of Calgary's Cumming School of Medicine.

“I spend my time in the lab … to find ways in which we can speed up the process to find new therapies with cancer, so one day we will cure all children with cancer – just like we did with polio, or smallpox and other diseases,” Narendran said.

Only five per cent of Canadian research funding is spent on childhood cancers, and Narendran said events like Curefest highlight the need for more support.

He said he looks forward to the day he can tell the parents of every child with cancer that there is a cure.

“We still have a long ways to go, but we can do it,” Narendran said.

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