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Terry Fox's mother is seriously ill, family says

Betty Fox, mother of Terry Fox photographed this week in Prince Edward Island.

Nina Linton/Nina Linton

There was an outpouring of support Friday after the Terry Fox Foundation announced that Betty Fox, the silver-haired matriarch who carried on her son's dream of raising funds to fight cancer, is seriously ill.

The Fox family declined to release details about her health except to clarify that, contrary to initial reports, Betty Fox is not suffering from cancer. Beyond that, they asked people to respect their privacy.

"We thank you in advance for your consideration," said a statement posted on the foundation's website.

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Rick Hansen, who pushed his wheelchair around the globe for spinal cord research in the Man in Motion World Tour and counts himself a family friend, said his thoughts and prayers are with the family.

"Betty is a remarkable Canadian who has made unprecedented contributions to Canada and the world, and I admire her greatly for her relentless commitment to Terry's legacy that continues to have such a significant impact on the lives of millions of people," said Mr. Hansen in a statement posted on his foundation's website.

Well-wishers from across Canada also posted online comments on the Fox foundation website,

"Your courage and grace have been inspirational. In many ways, you, too, have become a Canadian hero. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family," wrote GW, of Vancouver.

Terry Fox was diagnosed with bone cancer when he was 18, and in 1977 doctors amputated his right leg 15 centimetres above the knee.

Overcome by the suffering he saw as he underwent treatment, especially the children suffering from cancer, Mr. Fox vowed to run across the country to raise money for research.

Initially, Betty said she was opposed to the plan and the mother and son quarrelled.

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"It was a stupid thing to want to do," she recalled in a 2005 interview with Maclean's magazine. "Really stupid."

However, the two reconciled and on April 12, 1980, Terry began his Marathon of Hope by dipping his foot into the Atlantic Ocean in St. John's, N.L.

In the coming months Mr. Fox ran a full marathon, 42 kilometres, every day, despite the amputated leg, bad weather, illness and fatigue.

After 143 days and nearly 5,400 kilometres, Mr. Fox found out the cancer had returned, this time to his lungs, and he was forced to end his marathon outside of Thunder Bay, Ont.

He died June 28, 1981, at age 22.

After his death, the Fox family, including Betty, carried on with his goal to raise funds for research, establishing the foundation and spearheading annual Terry Fox runs that now take place around the world. More than half a billion dollars has been raised in Terry's name.

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Because of her efforts to continue Terry's legacy, Betty Fox was chosen as one of the prominent Canadians who carried the Olympic torch into the stadium to light the cauldron and begin the 2010 Games.

During the Jan. 11, 2011, unveiling of four bronze statues dedicated to Terry, she called for a museum where her son's journey could be preserved.

In another interview last year, Ms. Fox admitted she sometimes gets worried interest is dwindling in the run.

"Sometimes you get those ridiculous thoughts in your head," she said. "I get angry at myself...I don't know of anything that has lasted that long, that has been the same type of a fundraiser.

"Every year you worry about it happening, but sitting back and looking at the people who believe, the stories you hear from people who are living many years after being diagnosed with cancer, I believe it will be around for a number of years."

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