Dean Hall, 64: A World Record Swimmer, Cancer Survivor, and Licensed Therapist

Dean Hall is a remarkable individual who has not only conquered the challenges of being a licensed therapist and coach but has also achieved extraordinary feats as a world-record swimmer and a resilient cancer survivor. At 64 years old, Dean’s story is one of resilience, determination, and inspiration. His journey is a testament to the power of the human spirit in overcoming adversity and achieving remarkable accomplishments. In this article, we will delve into the life and achievements of Dean Hall, shedding light on his remarkable journey and the lessons we can all learn from his experiences.

How old are you? And how old do you feel? 

I am 64 years old and feel better than I did in my 40’s, because of the health practices/routines that I implemented during my cancer recover and have continued since that time. 

When did you start practicing as a therapist? What lead you to becoming a therapist?  

I started my career as a therapist on January 3, 1990! I have always wanted to be a therapist, but I decided to become a teacher first to give me time to mature and get to know people on a deeper level. As a teacher, the brokenness and stress of my students, their parents and other teachers made me pursue training as a therapist to know how to help on a deeper level.

What would your best advice be for someone who is dealing with a current cancer diagnosis, on how they can too be able to progress through it positively? 

My biggest boost in recovery came when after 3 years of fighting cancer I realized that it wasn’t a fair fight…cancer was winning and would win if I didn’t change my approach to recovery. Everything changed when I decided to trade “fighting cancer for loving life.” I determined to treat each day as a separate lifetime and love everyone and everything as much as I could in that “lifetime.” Second to this was making the decision to be the “captain of my recovery.” I decided to use my oncology team as consultants rather than my bosses. It’s my life. I should be the one in charge of making decisions about it.

You have written the book, The Wild Cure, can you explain more about this book and what influenced you to write it? 

My book “The Wild Cure” is a braided interview approach to telling the story of my decision to “love life” by chasing my impossible dream of becoming the first person to swim the entire 187 mile length of Oregon’s longest river- the Willamette while still an active cancer patient. I wrote it for the same reason I swam the river–I wanted other cancer patients to be inspired to refuse to give up simply because they’ve received a diagnosis. I believed if they saw me swim 187 miles in 40F water for 22 days while having leukemia and lymphoma that maybe, just maybe, they would find the strength within themselves to chase their dreams as well.

PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and Anxiety Disorders are becoming more and more commonly diagnosed, what would be your recommendations for individuals who are dealing with those issues in their current lives? Do you believe nutrition and supplements can make a difference too? 

Firstly, I would suggest that anyone who suspects they have PTSD find a good clinician who specializes in its recovery. Secondly, I would recommend they take an active approach to their own recovery. I was still suffering terribly from PTSD when I chose to swim the Willamette, being in the river for 22 days did much to heal it. They call it the “Blue Mind.” I didn’t know that being in, on, by water was helpful for PTSD at the time I swam, but by finding the courage to chase my dream I put myself in the position to naturally heal. I wonder if this wouldn’t be true for everyone. When we follow our dreams we meet the people we need to meet, do the things we need to do and find the answers we need to find to heal and grow. I, also, believe that nature is the best medicine for anyone who has PTSD.

We always know the first step is always the hardest. What would be a 5 step plan you would give someone who wants to work on their self healing at 50 years or older? 

1. Become the captain of your recovery. Take responsibility and be in charge of your healing.

2. Find a longheld dream to pursue and refuse to wait to pursue it! You may have to summon all of your courage, let go of others telling you that you can’t do it (for a multitude of reasons) and start with the smallest of steps…but start! 

3. Structure your days with good things to look forward to doing. For example, on Monday nights I painted, Tuesday nights I went to the movies, Wednesday nights I chatted online or on the phone with Friends and Thursday nights I spent the night in the forest, Friday nights I left free (to rest and recover), Saturday mornings I had breakfast with my sister and Sundays I went to see my parents. These were all fun events. I found if I didn’t have good plans I would spiral into loneliness and despair. There were times I was too sick to follow through or simply didn’t want to do whatever I had planned. I made the agreement with myself to always at least do whatever I had planned for 6 minutes and if I was too sick, too tired or too sad to continue I would let myself stop without judging myself for it. 

4. Plan for imperfection – I treated my plans like playing baseball. I would give myself 3 “strikes” a week. If I just couldn’t get myself to do something I had planned I would count it as a strike. When I got to two strikes in a week, I would do the same thing that I did in baseball when batting- I would dig in, plant my feet solidly, loosen my shoulders and look the pitcher (in this case/life) in the eye to show him/it I wasn’t scared and was going to give it my best.

5. HAVE FUN! When we are told we could die…we panic and it’s easy to get stuck there! Well, I have news for you…you were always going to die so why not get busy living! I start every day by asking myself only one question about each thing I have scheduled for the day- “How can I do that and have more fun? I would even try to have fun going to the oncologist. It was challenging at first, but after a while you develop the skill of bringing fun with you wherever you go and it infuses your life with power and confidence, because you have found that you are truly the one who decides how good/bad your life is, not your circumstances. 

Is there something that you would like to try to learn how to do now? 

Haha! Yes! I am trying to learn how to play the Irish Tin Whistle and the Bagpipes. I am continuing to learn how to play the Native American Flute. I would absolutely adore learning how to dance the “Lindy Hop.” Even when I was my sickest, I found if I watched couples dancing the Lindy Hop on YouTube it would always make me smile.

What is a personal goal of yours? 

It is my personal goal to be a world leader/spokesperson for helping our modern age/culture to return to a greater understanding/connection with nature. I believe we are all so anxious, addicted, and depressed because we have forgotten that we are not in our natural habitat and secretly starving to be challenged by experiences/adventures in the wild. I call it “the wild cure.”

You are also a record swimmer on top of everything else! What started you on that journey? 

Both of my parents were mountaineers! I spent my entire childhood out climbing and hiking with my parents in the wild beauty of the Pacific Northwest US. This early training in endurance led me to enjoy triathlon or any endurance sport. After a particularly successful bike race in 1984, I was with my family having a celebratory picnic on the banks of the Willamette River. It had been terribly polluted when I was a child. On that day, I noticed how clean and clear it looked and asked my dad if anyone had ever swam the entire length of it. That’s where the dream started. Thirty years later it was realized.

Say someone is interested in hiring you as their therapist/coach, what is something they can expect to change in their life or mindset?  

They can expect to be challenged to change not only their mindset, but their way of life. I believe therapy/coaching of the future won’t be done on a couch. It needs to be done while you’re up and moving. You can’t fully change the way you think if you’re not changing the way you move. They can expect me to teach them new ways to connect with themselves, those they love and most importantly…nature.  I am so sure that if they will do the things I did they will get similar results that I offer a money back guarantee.  

Dean Hall’s life is a testament to the power of perseverance, resilience, and the unwavering human spirit. From overcoming the challenges of cancer to achieving world records in swimming and dedicating himself to helping others as a licensed therapist and coach, Dean’s story is truly inspiring. His journey serves as a beacon of hope and motivation for all who face adversity. To stay updated with Dean’s remarkable journey and insights, follow him on Instagram at @deanhallofficial and visit his website at www.thewildcureway.com for more information on his achievements and contributions in the fields of therapy, coaching, and swimming. Dean’s life is a reminder that with courage and determination, one can triumph over even the most daunting obstacles.

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Shannah

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