'Defeat is not an option' 0
When Michelle Fuller was in Grade 5 she met Terry Fox at her school in Prince Edward Island.
Fox was in the early stages of his Marathon of Hope, and while he wasn't quite yet a household name in Canada, a young Fuller was still nervous to meet him. She'd been chosen out of everyone in her school to present Fox with the money they raised for cancer research, and got his autograph before he continued on his journey.
Like other Canadians, Fuller followed his story and, ultimately, the young man's death from cancer.
It was really the only time the word cancer and anything to do with it factored into her young life. She grew up, got a job, found joy in hobbies like cycling and made an effort to live a healthy life.
At 30 years old, she had a sales job that brought her out west, and she was travelling a lot for work. It was June 1999 and she was in Vancouver when she started to feel numbness under her eye. Later, while flying, there was pain in her ear. After that came excruciating tooth pain.
Doctors were baffled for a long time, and it wasn't until Fuller went to a specialist that she was finally diagnosed - she had cancer in her sinus. Her specific cancer is called Ewing's sarcoma. It's most commonly found in adolescent boys, but Fuller had it - and finally - had an answer as to why she was in so much pain.
"Even though I knew how popular Terry Fox had been - and I didn't know anyone with cancer - it didn't affect me until I was diagnosed," she said.
"I was ignorant. I thought it was something only old people got or people who didn't have a healthy lifestyle."
Chemotherapy was followed by surgery, more chemo and radiation treatments. She was hospitalized and spent New Year's Eve in the hospital toasting Y2K with the nurses.
By the end of April 2000, when she finished radiation, Fuller was 75 lbs, had lost all her hair and had difficulty speaking.
Because the surgery needed to remove the cancer from her sinus, her eye had to be removed along with the roof of her mouth.
"If you took a skull and smashed the cheekbone, that's what I've got," she said, smiling as she points to the eye patch she wears, calling it her "badge of honour."
Fuller said many people don't know you can get cancer in your sinuses because those who have it suffer social anxiety due to the deformity caused from surgery. But she feels the need to speak out and bring awareness to hers and all cancers. She became a Terry's Team Member in Edmonton while living there and planned to have a greater involvement locally after she moved to Canmore in November.
But this March, years after living cancer free, she started to feel pain in her chest. There was a tumour in her lung. At 43 years old, after she thought she was done fighting cancer, the Ewing's sarcoma returned. Adding to the pain of finding out her cancer was back, her mother was diagnosed with bladder cancer the very same day she was told there was cancer in her lung.
She's recently had surgery to remove a portion of her lung, but that's not the end of her battle. An MRI has revealed lesions in her brain that will require treatment, and she's meeting with a neurosurgeon later this month.
"I don't know if it's remained dormant in my body or what, but that's why we need researchers and research into this," she said.
Fuller will be walking in this year's Terry Fox Run to raise awareness and money for a cure. Her mother will be walking with her, at her side.
It has been a while since she's had to fight this disease, and like everyone who is afflicted - it wasn't part of her plans. When she and her husband moved to Canmore, she bought skis and snowshoes to enjoy and explore the mountains. But that has to be put on hold so she can care for her health.
"I think the majority of cancer survivors you talk to go through this feeling of, 'what did I do, what did I do, I don't understand,'" she said of the fear and shock that comes with a diagnosis.
"In some ways now, it's better because I have an understanding of what it is and how it's going to be."
It's going to be a tough fight. There's no doubt about it. But Fuller keeps a smile on her face and says with conviction, "defeat is not an option."
She's beaten it before. She'll beat it again.
"I think it's important to continue with the Terry Fox Run. I think it's important communities remember him and continue what he started. Maybe the money I help raise will save my life," she said.
The little 11-year-old girl who first met Terry Fox on a Marathon on Hope never would have imagined her adult life would be filled battling cancer. But she is ready to fight it with everything she has.
"If Terry Fox could have run a marathon a day, I can go through a year of being sick," she said. "It'll be rough, but it'll be OK."
Terry Fox Runs
Terry Fox Runs will be held in both Banff and Canmore on Sept. 16. Pledge forms are available at terryfox.org.
Location: Banff Rec Grounds, start at Protection Mountain Shelters
Registration: 9 a.m.
Run Time: 10 a.m.
to 2 p.m.
Lengths: 1k, 5k, 8k bike, run, walk. Dog friendly.
Location: Canmore Rec Centre
Registration: 10 a.m.
Run Time: 11:00 a.m.
Lengths: 1k, 5k, 10k, bike, run, walk, dog friendly, zero waste.