Cancer patient finds outlet in swimming

Dean Hall will swim the length of the Willamette River for cancer research.

Dean Hall will swim the length of the Willamette River for cancer research.

Few people would blame an individual with a cancer diagnosis for limiting their physical activities. Dean Hall of Gresham, Oregon, however, is no ordinary person. After being diagnosed with both leukemia and lymphoma, the 54-year-old family therapist decided to swim the length of the Willamette River to raise awareness about cancer research. 

Hall began his journey in Eugene on June 9 and expects to finish in Portland on June 23. He is taking it slow, putting on his competitive swimwear for 10 miles a day.

Since 2006, Hall has been dealing with leukemia and lymphoma. He also lost his wife to a different form of cancer in 2010. Instead of shutting down or giving up, Hall decided to do something meaningful. As a former triathlete, he was well-acquainted with open-water swimming and wanted to try his hand at swimming the entirety of the 184-mile Willamette. 

"One of the things I've learned as a therapist and a patient myself, when you get that diagnosis, it's so scary and overwhelming, it's pretty easy to give up your dream and drive," Hall told The Columbian, an Oregon newspaper. "I did, too. I knew better, but I kind of dropped all my dreams and went into survival mode."

Hall then decided that in order to improve his well-being, he needed to find the person that he once was. With the help of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, he was able to raise enough money to support his swim.

So far, the trip has been pretty easy. Two certified water rescue instructors along with Hall's father, Dick, are kayaking alongside him to provide support. 

Most importantly, said the younger Hall, he isn't sore and thinks that he'll have enough energy to compete the journey.