By Adam Brazeau
CORNWALL, Ontario – Inspired by her one-year-old daughter Emma’s courageous battle with cancer, and the unwavering support of her two best friends, Shonna Atchison embodied the fighting spirit of Terry Fox’s Marathon of Hope.
Atchison ran alongside Martintown’s Leesa Jarvo and Shirley MacDonell, of Williamstown, at the 34th annual Terry Fox Run Day in Cornwall on September 14.
The trio of Upper Canada District School Board teachers joined hundreds of other runners, walkers, cyclists, and pets to help raise tens of thousands of dollars for cancer research.
Atchison’s daughter, Emma McQuaig, was diagnosed with retinoblastoma, a rare eye cancer, last year around Christmas.
Little Emma’s right eye was removed and replaced with a prosthetic eye.
Atchison hopes her left eye, which currently has 20/20 vision, will have a full recovery as doctors at SickKids in Toronto work to remove any tumors.
All three friends participate annually at their school’s run. But this was Atchison’s first time around the scenic Cornwall course along the St. Lawrence River.
“More so than ever, this year it’s real. It hits home. I mean it’s always been important, but when it’s in your home it’s a little more intense I guess,” said Atchison.
MacDonell considered her friend’s strength as a mother throughout the uphill battle with the disease an inspiration. Her bet is on Emma, who she described as a little fighter.
“Emma’s going to kick it in the butt,” said MacDonell.
The Stormont Sea Cadet Band opened the ceremonies with a stirring rendition of the national anthem in honour of Fox, the Canadian hero.
MP Guy Lauzon and MPP Jim McDonell followed up with a quick speech to commend the organizers and volunteers for their efforts, as well as the community for their support.
Despite losing his first wife to cancer 27 years ago, Lauzon expressed his hope that a cure is within reach.
“Terry Fox would not have lost his leg now. That’s how far the research in the cure for cancer is coming,” said Lauzon.
Echoing his sentiments, Atchison added: “To see the treatment that she received and how far the treatment for her cancer has come, you know the money is going to good places and it’s helping a lot of people.”
Josée Sauvé, event organizer, couldn’t agree more.
She resurrected the local run when she grabbed the reins nine years ago. And Sauvé is proud to report that this year beat all records.
A total of $25,788.70 was raised thanks to 357 participants.
“Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine today turning out like it did,” said Sauvé.