British Columbia

Playing Terry Fox an 'honour' for amputee actor with same bone cancer

In new Heritage Minutes clip honouring 35th anniversary of Marathon of Hope, actor Jay Huumonen wears a similar prosthesis to the one Fox wore in 1980.

Heritage Minutes actor Jay Huumonen diagnosed at 16

Jay Huumonen, left, with prosthetist Geoffrey Hall, right. Huumonen portrays Terry Fox in a new Heritage Minutes clip. (Supplied)

When Jay Huumonen was diagnosed, at 16, with a form of bone cancer in his foot, he immediately had someone who could give him hope.

Terry Fox was diagnosed with the same cancer, osteosarcoma, when he was 18 years old.

"The first thing I thought of was Terry," Huumonen, now 37, told The Early Edition host Rick Cluff.

"If something like this happens to you, what do you do? Terry Fox was the only guideline: you go in, you do chemotherapy, you go in there and you beat it."

Huumonen, a gardener from Duncan on Vancouver Island, was chosen to portray Fox in a new Heritage Minutes clip to mark the 35th anniversary of the Marathon of Hope.

Heritage Minutes are a series of 60-second short films that showcase important moments in Canada's history, and have been on the air since 1991.

Director Grant Harvey went on a country-wide search to look for a man who specifically had an amputation similar to Fox, and found Huumonen, who had no acting experience.

Actor wore similar prosthesis to Fox

Huumonen literally got to step into his hero's shoes — his friend and prosthetist Geoffrey Hall built a prosthesis for him that looks exactly like the one Fox used in 1980 when he ran more than 5,000 kms to raise funds for cancer research.

Hall had some old parts he'd been saving that were the same as those used in the prosthesis Fox wore, and with help from archival photographs was able to create an authentic-looking prosthesis.

"It just brings back the memories of Terry Fox so strongly, watching his hop-hop-step way of running," Hall said.

"It was quite an emotional thing to be there and watch it all happen on film again."

Actor Jay Huumonen stands with an 1988 Econoline 150 that was made to look like the one used by Terry Fox. (Supplied)

Not only is osteosarcoma now highly curable according to researchers, but prosthesis technology has also advanced since Fox set out to run across the country.

"We're using blade-shaped carbon-fibre feet now and Terry never had that, we have hydraulically controlled knees and Terry never had that, and all those things would have made his run just a little easier for him."

'Such an honour'

For Huumonen, it was very emotional to run in the clip wearing the same type of prosthesis Fox wore, which Huumonen described feeling like "raw steel" and a "hard post"

"[Terry Fox] just gave us so much inspiration because without him being out there [running for research], I wouldn't be here," he said.

"It just meant the world to me to basically get to play my hero and such as honour to step into those shoes."

The annual Terry Fox run takes place Sunday, Sept. 20.


To hear the full interview listen to the audio labelled: Amputee actor in new Heritage Minutes clip has same form of cancer as Terry Fox

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