Sault Stryders
Running Club

Survivor helps revitalize Terry Fox run
Reported September 15, 2003 by Brian Kelly for The Sault Star
Sault Ste Marie, Ontario

Cancer survivor Susan Falkins unfurls the Terry Fox flag on Sunday at the Roberta Bondar Pavilion in the Sault prior to the run.

Sault woman uses opportunity to return generosity

What goes around comes around, is the motto Susan Falkins lives by these days.

Diagnosed with cancer when she was a teenager, the Sault Ste. Marie woman remembers how the Canadian Cancer Society and her new neighbours rallied to her aid when she was ill.

Now, the mother of one is returning the generosity showered on her by volunteering with the Terry Fox Run in Sault Ste. Marie.

"It's time to lend that (helping) hand back," she said.

Touched by the efforts of Rob and Carole Frech to revitalize the annual fall fundraiser three years ago, Falkins has lent a hand ever since.

"They've put a spark that it hasn't had for years," she said. "It's great."

On Sunday, the 32-year-old woman carried a flag with Fox's image to kick off the event at Roberta Bondar Pavilion.

She and Carole have also visited several city schools to talk about cancer and the annual run.

When she speaks to assemblies in school gymnasiums, Falkins describes how she was a Grade 11 student at Sir James Dunn collegiate in 1988 when she was diagnosed with osteogenic sarcoma, the same cancer Fox had.

Three months later, doctors amputated her right leg below her knee. A prosthesis for the limb followed not long after.

Her family had just moved into a new home on Panoramic Avenue. Neighbours helped raise money to pay for costs for Falkins' family to travel to southern Ontario for medical treatment.

While students have lots of questions for Falkins, wondering if she was scared and if she was in pain while having cancer, she also stresses activities, such as riding a bike, that she continues to enjoy.

Sunday's run attracted 390 participants who raised approximately $22,000 in pledges for cancer research.

Organizers had hoped for 400 people and $30,000. That dollar figure would have surpassed a record tally of $24,600 raised in 2002.

"We set a goal that was pretty high, but we're very happy with the fact that we're over $20,000 still," said Rob Frech.

The previous record of $19,000 had stood since 1984.

"We've reached a new level, I think, with the run that we're going to work at maintaining and still work hard at trying to increase it a little bit," he said.

More than $220,000 has been raised by local participants over the years.

Local run organizers have extended an informal invitation to the Fox family through the Terry Fox Foundation to visit Sault Ste. Marie in August 2005 to mark the 25th anniversary of Fox's run.

Fox ran through the city on Aug. 12, 1980, on his Marathon of Hope across Canada. It was the last major community he visited before stopping his run less than three weeks later near Thunder Bay. Cancer had spread to Fox's lungs. He died at age 22 on June 28, 1981.