Within every hero lives a tragedy.

During stretches of “Journey for Lives,” Steve’s older sister, Suzanne, kept a journal where she logged such things as distances and weather and noted daily events and media interviews.

Suzanne was instrumental in helping Steve organize and plan the run, writing and calling potential sponsors while both she and Steve were working at their parents’ restaurant, the Pyrogy House, in Vernon, B.C. She also provided moral support to Steve at the start of the run and become the de facto driver throughout most of the Atlantic Provinces and Northern Ontario.

In this journal entry from April 2, 1984, Suzanne talks about Steve’s daily routine of hot baths and massages (to help with the muscle pain) and bandages applied to his stump and right foot to prevent blisters and tears. At this point of the run most of the preventative medical work was being done by Romeo Gadbois, a part-time ambulance attendant from Salmon Arm, B.C. who had been appointed by the “Journey for Lives” board to look after Steve. Gadbois was responsible for Steve’s day-to-day medical needs. He also drove the motorhome.


Steve and Romeo did not get along. The two were butting heads long before the start of the “Journey for Lives” while the motorhome was still being prepared. In fact, one of the reasons that Suzanne joined the run was to mitigate some of the conflict and provide some stability since Steve could be quick to anger.

Gadbois was much older — he celebrated his 50th birthday while on the road in Newfoundland — and he had little in common with Steve whose interests included fast cars, junk food, and girls.

Their differences seem to intensify once the Canadian Cancer Society came onboard to administer the run in mid-May 1984 to the point where Steve and Romeo were trading insults in the press.

Steve accused Gadbois of “… acting like a big shot, when he’s really only my medical attendant” while Gadbois criticized Steve of fabricating ailments.

After eight weeks on the road with “Journey for Lives”, Gadbois resigned telling reporters that he “didn’t want his integrity jeopardized by Fonyo’s actions during the run.”

Steve put his own spin on things saying, “Romeo did not resign. I asked him nicely to leave.”

The Canadian Cancer Society characterized the conflict as “… friction in a sort of family-like relationship between Romeo and Steve.”

Suzanne took over Gadbois’ duties after he left. When she left the run to return home, Steve’s medical care was taken over by Steve Fonyo Sr.

One or another of the Fonyo family would be with Steve throughout the 7,175-kilometre run.


HURT is a documentary portrait of Steve Fonyo, a one-legged cancer survivor who successfully completed a cross-Canada run in the 1980's, only to spend three decades mired in crime and addiction.

Produced with the participation of

Canadian Media Fund, Ontario Media Development Corporation, Super Channel and iChannel.

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