BARRY’S BAY – The annual Terry Fox runs can bring up an array of emotions for local participants.
Runners could feel a sense of hope, in that they are raising money that will one day fund research towards a cure. Walkers might feel a sense of pride, that they are continuing the tradition and keeping Fox’s dream alive.
But for bikers Jennifer Orr and Dr. Denise Coulas, the event in Barry’s Bay stirred up those emotions and much more.
Their mother, Pearl Orr, passed away in 1998 from lung cancer after a three-month battle. She was buried on her 63rd birthday.
Thinking about it today is still very painful for the family. Pearl did not have any of the risk factors associated with lung cancer; in fact, she was more at risk for breast cancer due to a family history. Pearl did not smoke and upheld a healthy lifestyle.
“It was explained to me, that it was rotten, bad luck that it happened to her,” Jennifer said. “It was truly devastating for our family to see. She was a really healthy, active woman.”
The two sisters participated in the Barry’s Bay Terry Fox Run on September 15. Wearing white T-shirts displaying a photo of their mother, the two rode their bikes throughout the course this year.
Pearl was the mother to five kids and the wife of the late Don Orr. She taught typing and shorthand at the Madawaska Valley District High School.
“People mostly know her for the person that she was,” Denise said. “She was kind, she was generous, she was caring, interested in people, helpful.”
She was an active community member, volunteering as much as she could, the sisters said. But she always made sure her family came first.
“She was the centre of our family,” Jennifer added.
Since her passing, members of the Orr family have been participating in the Terry Fox Runs to remember Pearl and to raise money for cancer research.
According to the Canadian Cancer Society, 25,500 Canadians will be diagnosed with lung cancer and 20,200 Canadians will die from lung cancer in 2013 alone. On average, 55 Canadians die from lung cancer everyday.
“Certain cancers are hard to diagnose and often aren’t diagnosed until they are very advanced,” Jennifer said.
She encouraged pre-screening where it is available, and encouraged people to quit smoking as soon as possible.
“It’s a horrible thing to watch,” Jennifer explained.
As volunteers rang cow-bells to welcome back participants, Jennifer said everyone is proud of Terry Fox, who started the Marathon of Hope.
Fox, who lost his leg to cancer, dipped his foot in the Atlantic Ocean in Newfoundland and began his cross-country journey to raise money for cancer research.
After running an average of a marathon a day, he was forced to stop when he was running outside of Thunder Bay, Ontario because cancer had appeared in his lungs. Fox passed away on June 28, 1981 at the age of 22.
Story continues in the September 18, 2013 issue of The Valley Gazette.