Chris Hall is young, healthy and physically fit, so when the Port Alberni teacher found out he had cancer, it came as a big surprise. Luckily for Hall, his diagnosis of leukemia was detected early, and although he is currently on a long road to recovery, his outlook remains positive.
At 46, the E.J. Dunn Elementary School teacher is active in sports, regularly cycles to work and enjoys growing organic food at home with his family. It was during a night out with friends that reminded him to think of his own health.
“He was playing poker with a bunch of guys and they started talking about physical exams,” said Chris’ wife Jessica.
“He realized he hadn’t had one in about 20 years and when he came home he felt he should go get it done.”
It was his bloodwork that raised questions.
“It was a big shock,” Jessica said. “It was five weeks from his blood test to getting the call from the oncologist. Then 24 hours later, he was admitted to Vancouver General.”
Jessica said he was never sick nor showed any signs of illness.
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He immediately began his first round of chemotherapy and is currently on antibiotics to keep infections away. In the next two to three months he is expected to be on consolidation (post-remission) therapy, followed by further chemotherapy and radiation, with the hope of a bone marrow transplant in early January.
“They are currently trying to find an unrelated donor,” Jessica said.
Chris was told his stay in Vancouver would likely be for the entire school year so the family was forced to quickly adjust their lives. Jessica too, is a teacher and has taken an undetermined leave of absence from her position at Alberni Elementary. She and the couple’s two daughters have moved part-time to Vancouver.
“The first week the girls only saw him one or two days so now they can see him more,” she said. “We have enrolled them in school there and are home on weekends for soccer and to see their friends.”
She said having his family there helps Chris remain positive.
“It is important for him to see the kids and it helps him to not feel so distanced,” she said.
She said the most difficult adjustment for Chris is the lack of activity.
“He went to spin class right up until the day before we left for Vancouver General Hospital,” she said. “He figured if he was going to have to stay there he might as well get it in as much as he could.”
As soon as the family’s friends heard the news, they rallied support by providing meals, housekeeping and fundraisers. Coworkers in the school district are currently organizing a community dance, the Tour de Chris, to help with growing expenses. Held at the Hansen Hall on Nov. 14, it will include a silent auction and photo booth. Tickets are available at Alberni Elementary School.