Krystal McKay — who had osteosarcoma, the same cancer Terry Fox was diagnosed with in 1977 — is this year’s organizer for Chilliwack’s Terry Fox Run set for Sunday, Sept. 15. (Jenna Hauck/ The Progress)

Cancer survivor steps up as Chilliwack’s Terry Fox Run organizer

Krystal McKay was diagnosed with osteosarcoma at age 14, the same type of cancer Terry Fox had

Krystal McKay has had a personal connection to Terry Fox for almost 20 years.

Back in 2000, when she was just 14 years old, she was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, the same type of bone cancer that the famous young Canadian had when he was 18 years old.

It was found in her right leg, the same leg as Terry.

Since 2000, McKay’s cancer has returned twice and she has had multiple surgeries and countless CAT scans and X-rays.

But now she’s been cancer-free for 10 years, and she’s ready. Ready to help the Terry Fox Foundation and fellow cancer patients. And so, McKay has stepped up to be the new organizer of the Terry Fox Run in Chilliwack.

After all, if it weren’t for Terry Fox, it would not have been made known that osteosarcoma spreads to one’s lungs, which is exactly what happened to McKay.

“Osteosarcoma is a bone cancer, but the cells deposit themselves in your lungs, and that’s exactly what happened to Terry Fox. That’s why he lost his life is they didn’t know.”

Back then, Terry’s surgeons thought by removing the bone, the cancer would be gone, “not knowing that this type spreads to your lungs,” she said.

Soon after she was diagnosed at the age of 14, McKay had surgery to remove her right knee along with half of her femur, tibia and fibula.

“I had really intense chemo because the type of bone cancer that I had — osteosarcoma — is very aggressive. When I first was diagnosed they told me ‘it’s going to spread to your lungs. The chances of it are very high. We’re going to be scanning your lungs for the rest of your life.’”

A few years later it had spread, just like it had for Terry.

“In 2003, in February, it spread to my lungs. I was just going to graduate [high school],” she said, adding that there was more than one tumour, and they were quite small.

“The size of a grain of rice, that’s how big it was and [the surgeon] could actually feel it.”

Six years later, the cancer was back.

“In January 2009, I had just gotten engaged that weekend and found out I had a tumour again in the same lung.”

She had surgery to remove that cancer and has since been cancer-free for a decade.

Time to celebrate.

Over the last 10 years she’s been attending the Terry Fox Run as a walker, but now she wants to honour her cancer-free milestone by signing up to be this year’s run organizer.

“For me, the volunteering is the personal aspect.”

And despite having had surgery this year to replace her 18-year-old titanium knee which had worn out, and despite the fact that she’s a mom of a five-year-old, is hosting an exchange student, works full time, and is the vice chair on the board of a local charity, McKay still found the time to organize the local Terry Fox Run.

“It’s a little intimidating. I feel like I have big shoes to fill. I kind of feel like this will be my practice year and maybe for next year, being the 40th, it will be even bigger.”

But, she is “very organized.”

“I’m the party planner for the family.”

Although the Terry Fox Run is quite a bit bigger of an undertaking than a family party, she’s still upbeat about it and is hoping hundreds will come out in support of the Terry Fox Foundation.

Sunday, Sept. 15 marks the 39th annual Terry Fox Run. In Chilliwack, it takes place at the Landing Sports Centre and there’s the option of a two, five or 10-kilometre route which you can walk, run or bike. Last year, $24,547.90 was raised and 379 people took part.

Registration this year opens at 8 a.m. A welcome with Mayor Ken Popove is at 9 a.m. and the run starts at 9:30 a.m. Following the event, the Mt. Cheam Lions Club will be having a pancake breakfast by donation.

People can register for the run as individuals or as teams. They can also register online at terryfox.org/run. Those wishing to volunteer can email chilliwackterryfoxrun@gmail.com.

Anyone who’s a cancer survivor qualifies as a ‘Terry’s Team Member’ and will receive a red T-shirt. McKay got one recently but has only worn it once since she’s kept her story pretty quiet until now.

“A lot of people around me actually had no idea that this was my personal history, because I didn’t share it. But I’m comfortable with it now,” says McKay. “Because I’ve been so shy, I’ve only worn [the red shirt] once before. So this year I will sport the red shirt.”

She’s encouraging others to do the same and says people should be “proud” to wear it.

Surely Terry would be proud, too.


 

@PhotoJennalism
jenna.hauck@theprogress.com

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Krystal McKay — who had osteosarcoma, the same cancer Terry Fox was diagnosed with in 1977 — is this year’s organizer for Chilliwack’s Terry Fox Run set for Sunday, Sept. 15. (Jenna Hauck/ The Progress)

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