Andrew Abley comes from a family of teachers, so he grew up taking part in Terry Fox runs, but never truly taking the meaning to heart.
Cancer wasn’t part of his world as a young person.
“I never got involved really much with Terry Fox until I started my journey,” the 42-year-old dad said.
So this year, he’s signed up for the Terry Fox Run in Langley City.
On Oct. 1, 2014, Abley’s life took a very different direction after he started a new job in Kamloops, managing a tire shop.
“I was crushed by a freight elevator,” he said. “It fell 14 feet and had 1,200 pounds sitting on it.”
The date of the accident was the same date he and his wife took possession of their new home.
But the focus for the family had to be Abley’s recovery.
“I battled trying to keep my leg,” he said.
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His first amputation was May 2016 at Royal Columbian Hospital. Later he would have to have more of the leg removed, up to mid-thigh.
“Terry was also amputated at Royal Columbian and also passed away at Royal Columbian, too,” Abley noted.
At the age of 18 Terry Fox lost his right leg to the cancer which would eventually kill him during his Marathon of Hope run across Canada in 1980. He was 22 when he died.
After Abley’s amputation, he started to notice how his life was beginning to parallel Terry’s and he started to understand just what Fox endured – an artificial leg with a wooden foot, living in a van, eating fast food and running the equivilent of a 26-mile marathon day after day.
“I can’t imagine the pain,” Abley said. “Terry’s been my motivation – Terry and Rick Hansen.”
Right after Abley’s amputation, he said he was going to do a Terry Fox Run, an idea frowned on by his doctor and others.
But he was part of a big team that did 10 kilometres at the Kamloops event.
Abley lives in Kamloops and has done the Terry Fox Run there, but comes to Langley for several weeks of the year for specialty therapy at LifeMark in Willowbrook.
The Langley centre provides WorkSafe rehabilitation for people with amputations from around the province.
The timing has never worked out before to do a run in Langley but this year he’s looking forward to the one at Douglas Park, with family coming down to join him and the rest of the LifeMark team.
“It’s a treat to come down here,” he said, noting the run will have a special poignancy. “My mom passed away in November from cancer.”
Abley willl be sporting his Terry Fox T-shirts – he bought two dozen from the run a few years ago and wears them as his lucky shirt.
But he’ll also have his high-tech prostetic leg, made by the same family that constructed the leg of Terry Fox. Terry’s had a wooden foot.
Technology has progressed so much. Abley’s leg is linked via Bluetooth to his tablet. He used his Terry Fox Run T-shirt from last year to decorate his prosthetic leg.
The young Kamloops father has plans for the future. Abley is doing a degree from the University of Fredericton in worker safety and plans to become a speaker – to worker groups, employers and more. He’s already done several school presentations with an emphasis on changing young people’s attitudes to those with disabilities and helping continue Terry’s legacy.
“It’s great going to the schools and showing the prosthetics and biogenics, showing them the different type of amputations,” he said. “They see it as normal.”
But he’s got other goals.
Abley has high sights set on taking part in the climb of Mt. Terry Fox next year.
“I want to ride my bike 350 clicks from Kamloops to Valemount where Mt. Terry is,” he said. “I’ve got a little breast cancer thing I’d like to put up there for my mom.”
When Terry was running, he used a distinctive step, hop, hop motion, dubbed the Fox trot. It’s really hard on the body mechanics.
Abley wants to learn to run on his prosthesis. He uses the same method as Fox.
“Doing the Fox trot, that’s how I run right now,” he said.
LANGLEY’S TERRY FOX RUNS:
- Registration: 9 a.m.
- Run: 10 a.m.
- Douglas Park, 20550 Douglas Cres.
- Choose one-, five- or 10-kilometre routes through parks and streets. Suitable for bikes, wheelchairs/strollers and rollerblades. Dogs on leash welcome.
- Organizers would welcome some volunteers. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Registration: 9 a.m.
- Run: 10 a.m.
- Aldergrove Kinsmen Community Centre, 26770 29th Ave.
- Routes are two-, five- or 10-km, and suitable for bikes, wheelchairs and strollers, and rollerblades. People can bring dogs on leashes.
- Registration: 8:30 a.m.
- Run: 9 a.m.
- Walnut Grove Community Centre, 8889 Walnut Grove Dr.
- This walk has five- and 10-km routes. Organizers note this is suitable for walkers and bikes. Dogs on leash are allowed.
Information on any run is at www.terryfoxrun.org.