My Colleague-Wes Hall-His Journey

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The journey that led me to train for the Paralympics began in June 1986, when I was diagnosed with osteo-sarcoma. I had a large tumor in my right lower femur that we thought was a recurring injury from soccer. Four months later, on September 24th, my right leg was amputated after the tumor did not respond to chemo. 

After my amputation, I was given chemo to hopefully kill any remaining cancer cells and, in August 1987, we found another tumor in my right lung, which was removed. At that point my options were experimental. I could have chemo for another year or have an autotrophic bone marrow transplant, where they take 2 liters of my marrow, treat 1 liter and save the other liter as back up. I chose the autotrophic bone marrow transplant. I was the 15th person in the nation to have this done and only one patient had survived before me.


For me, this was a let's get it done sort of option. I could be miserable during the 8 days of high dose chemo versus being miserable once a month for a year. I responded well and was out in 21 days. Four days later, I was back with a liver infection. My youngest brother and my dad flew to Baltimore over night, because they were not sure I would make it. A couple of blood transfusions and waking to my little brother must have done the trick. In December 1987, they found a 2nd tumor in my left lung, which meant spending Christmas at Hopkins. A few days later, we got good news that the tumor they removed was dead and it showed up on the scan because my body finally started to attack it.


Through all of this, I had a supportive group of high school friends, who treated me as an equal, whether it was body boarding, surfing, building prom props, pushing over port-o-johns, or swimming for the high school swim team. This was followed by my college days at UNC Chapel Hill, where I met my wife, Amy.


After college, I went to work for the YMCA. I learned how to lead staff and my willingness to do crazy stuff with staff without letting my "handicap" hinder my sometimes foolish activities also built rapport with my co-workers. But it was on a cold winter day on Lake Benson that a friend of mine, Erik Sorenson, and I decided to try out sea kayaking; I was hooked. A few months later, Amy and I went on a four-day kayak trip, and I was inspired to start a kayaking program for the Y. Two years later, Wilderness Systems donated 15 kayaks and the YMCA of the Triangle kayak program was born. Ten years later, I was able to share my passion of kayaking with 800 - 1000 youth a summer. I acquired my British Canoe Union 3 Star Kayak, Rescue and Level 2 Instructor Award with no modified requirements.


In the fall of 2008, I decided I needed to follow a new path and left the Y as full-time staff. A short time later, Amy & I were blessed with our third child and I assumed the role of stay-at-home dad. My passion for kayaking did not end and was fulfilled by teaching kayaking lessons for the Town of Cary and being a safety kayaker for Great Outdoor Provision Company. In 2011, I became a volunteer kayak instructor for Raleigh's Team River Runner, which teaches wounded vets how to kayak. This path led me to Bridge 2 Sports, where I was introduced to K1 racing at a collaborative event with Team River Runner. I was asked if I wanted to join their Parakayak team. After some thought, I decided I would accept the offer to join their team and train for the 2016 Paralympics in Rio. Up to this point, I was already active in open water, surf and whitewater kayaking, so why not add another discipline.  

I am now longer training for the Paralympics, though continue my distant kayak training for fitness.  My new path is creating a Parapaddler Development Program for Bridge II Sports to get more physically challenged paddlers on the water.  


Surviving cancer, adapting to a life with one leg and the other challenges I have overcome have presented the question: why was I blessed with life, a beautiful family, and supportive friends?  My hope to inspire other cancer survivors and physically challenged athletes, as well as my able-bodied friends to enjoy the sport of kayaking. 

Thank you for choosing to take this journey with me.

Position: Director-EveryBODYPlaysNC

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