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TFRI hosts Terry Fox Foundation run organizers

An all-star cast of volunteers, supporters and speakers gathered at the BC Cancer Agency in Vancouver recently to gear up for the annual Terry Fox Run slated for Sunday, September 14. It was an inspiring workshop for all of us who participated.

Terry Fox Run organizers from BC and the Yukon

Terry Fox Foundation run organizers, staff and guests at their workshop in Vancouver in May.

Led by BC/Yukon provincial director Donna White, the 40-strong group included new and long-standing TFF run organizers from across the province and Whitehorse; special guests who shared their remembrances of Terry; cancer survivors and family members who came to share their inspirational stories of courage and hope; and research experts, such as long-time TFF-funded cancer researcher Dr. Connie Eaves, and myself.

“Science research is like a huge mosaic, with every person contributing one piece. Each piece is a very small, but very important, contribution and just a few missing pieces would ruin the bigger picture,” remarked Dr. Eaves, before providing a tour of the Terry Fox labs. She described cancer research as a huge team effort and that everyone who takes part in the Terry Fox Run is a part of our cancer research team.

Thank you, Connie, for bringing this important point home. Together we are greater than the sum of the parts. This is the focus of the Terry Fox Research Institute – bringing together funded scientists and clinician-scientists as well as trainees – to solve the cancer challenge, which today we know involves about 200 different diseases.

Quite frequently people ask me: “Why is cancer so hard to beat?” To me the answer is both simple and complicated. If cancer was easy to beat, then all life would be very fragile and we probably wouldn’t exist at all. All of life, from humans to trees to insects, relies on cell division, which is an incredibly robust process. Human life starts from the fusing of two cells (sperm and egg). Nine months later, when the baby is born, it will have 10 trillion cells. Cancer is out-of-control cell division; it is very robust and so it is very difficult to beat.”

The best chance we have to fight cancer is to bring top researchers together to understand it at the biological, molecular and genomic levels so we can detect it earlier, and diagnose and treat it. We know that in order to make progress in cancer research often means only taking baby steps as science is a rigorous process. TFRI’s strategy is to build outstanding collaborative teams to make discoveries and translate results to benefit patients. This collaborative approach is challenging because there are many competing priorities, regulations, and processes within the academic and health care arenas where cancer research is conducted. However the efforts to build such teams are worth it because results are achieved faster and they are more likely to have impact on patient outcomes

The workshop gave me the opportunity to share some of these challenges with our supporters and thank them for their work. I also learned more about how they are making a difference:

  • Clarence from Gitsegukla, a community of about 500 people (southwest of Hazelton BC), raised $1,200 last year selling Terry Fox run t-shirts!
  • Cancer survivors Selina and Anna share their personal stories experiences, demonstrating their own remarkable courage and how medicine and technology, due to research, are changing lives.
  • Vancouver school teacher Debby shares Terry’s story eagerly with her young students; within the hallowed halls of learning today are smart young minds that tomorrow may unlock new cures, inspired by a young hero named Terry.
  • Kerry Ann, who at the tender age of 9 ran and played with Terry during that summer of 1980, tells us how fun and ordinary Terry was – and how, in a moment, she came to know he was extraordinary!

 

Our thanks to everyone who attended the recent workshops in BC and Ontario. Our vibrant mosaic will help us to achieve the possible!