NKCR Day 9 – Sept. 14
Atikokan to Thunder Bay, Ontario
Last night we arrived in Atikokan around 11:30 after a long commute. The riders were tired and we unloaded quickly and climbed into the bunk trucks. Soon afterwards, the wind picked up and we heard the rumble of thunder in the distance.
The winds increased and started to shake the bunk truck quite violently… it sounded like people were on our loading ramp jumping up and down. The thunderstorm persisted for a few hours and the rain was coming down in buckets – thankfully we were all warm and dry, but each of us was not looking forward to a wet ride in the morning.
The storm subsided before we woke up and we headed to the Atikokan Friendship Centre for breakfast which consisted of fruit, bannock, steel cut oats and the best oatmeal I have ever had – everything you need and more to climb hills.
This morning’s ride dedication was for Alex, a very focused, mature, sweet, caring child who took on a love of books and learning from a young age.
In March 2007 at the age of 10, Alex began not feeling well and a great deal of pain in his left thigh. Following multiple tests he was diagnosed with osteosarcoma – bone cancer. He began an aggressive 10 months of chemotherapy and underwent 2 very invasive surgeries.
In October he underwent an 11 hour surgery with two medical teams to address the primary tumor in his left femur, nodes in his left lung and his left rib. His femur was replaced with a metal rod, his knee was replaced and he had a scar from his shin to above his hip. His second surgery was in November to address the metastases in the right ankle, right hip and right lung. He never complained about the challenges that he faced.
He struggled through the physiotherapy yet amazed health progressions with his progress and determination. That summer he enjoyed time at the cottage with his books and family – life seemed good. However, on November 7, 2008 they discovered Alex had developed AML (a form of leukemia).
Alex passed away February 12, 2009 weeks shy of his 12th birthday. In his short life he taught those who knew him courage, strength and determination
This morning’s ride started with a short shuttle and forecast for the day was cool, overcast (with a chance of rain) and the start of some hill climbing. The landscape was rugged and beautiful with rocks and trees along both sides of the road. At the 47km mark we took a short rest before rounding out the morning with another 49km run to Shabaqua River Outfitters.
This lunch stop was fantastic! There were tacos, fresh guacamole, salad and an amazing selection of desserts – homemade pies, butter tarts, brownies and ice cream. SOOOOO good.
After lunch, we were shuttled in to Thunder Bay where we were met with a police escort that took us up to the Terry Fox memorial so we could have some time to reflect on his journey and his impact on the country. I had been to this memorial before, but today’s visit was more emotional for everyone, myself included.
The riders spoke about ones they lost and those that continue to fight. We were told that Terry’s parents, are following our ride and reading our blogs as we cross the country. We talked about Terry’s inspiration that he had then and now, which started a conversation that allowed a nation to come together every September to raise money and awareness to continue the fight. I am so grateful and proud to be part of this ride which is a continuance of the conversation that Terry started about children faced with cancer.
If you have never been to this spot in Canada- I highly recommend it as a bucket list item.
Here is the inscription at the monument:
Terry Fox inspired this nation with his dream – his marathon of hope – a cross canada run to raise money for cancer research.
This courageous young man from Port Coquitlam British Columbia, knew only too well the ravages of cancer… because at 18 he had lost his right left to the disease and etched in his mind was the pain and suffering on the faces of the other cancer victims. Determined not o leave this “world of miracles” before a cure had been bound he planned his 5,300-mile marathon.
After dipping his foot in the Atlantic, he began his epic in St. John’s Newfoundland on April 12, 1980.
Running 26 miles a day, this outstanding young athlete had conquered five provinces by the time he had reached Ontario in June. Then, at mile number 3,339, near their very site, recurring cancer forced him to give up his run.
“It feels good to give”, he told the people of Ontario who responded wholeheartedly to his courage and his dream and through his perseverance in the face of overwhelming odds, he inspired an outpouring of immense national pride and a flood of $24 million for cancer research.
To the people of Ontario, Terry gave us pride – pride in having known him and briefly sharing his dream.
To every Canadian, he left us his challenge – A challenge each of us will meet in our own way.
After a lot of tears, hugs and emotional stories, we headed off to Lakehead University for a quick shower, parking lot pizza and then back in the RV’s to shuttle to Marathon for the start of a long and challenging ride – 187km to Wawa.
Currently, we are driving through an intense thunder storm – let’s hope it doesn’t follow us to Marathon….
More videos of our journey:
Link to Day 5 video: https://youtu.be/NMsDbdMY9iQ
Link to Day 6 video: https://youtu.be/cM1REBgcUWg