Couple takes cancer journey together


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Glen and Doris Hall have gone through a lot together in their marriage of 66 years.

They went to school together, had three children together and then grandchildren, together experienced a career in academics. Now, they can add cancer to the list.

Both received proton therapy in treatment periods that overlapped each other—he for prostate cancer, she for colon cancer.

It’s not the kind of sharing either would have chosen. But, says Doris, “it draws you closer together.”

Sweethearts at Berea College in Kentucky—Doris a sociology major, Glen finally settling on agriculture—the two married while still in school with special permission from the president.

“His first question was, ‘How are you going to support a wife?’” says Glen. He then gave his consent—and his new wife a job in the administrative office.

The couple went on to the University of Kentucky and then Iowa State University, where Glen earned his PhD and their first daughter was born in Ames. He was hired by the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, in 1955. Later, he headed the Department of Agriculture at the University of Tennessee, Martin, and set-up a branch of the Agriculture Experiment State there. He returned to UT Knoxville in 1967 as Dean of the College of Agriculture—at age 38 the youngest dean. He also served as interim Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs in 1992-1993—the second highest administrative position at UTK. He retired in 1995 after 40 years with the university.

While at UT, Glen worked to create a caring, welcoming atmosphere for faculty and students. He also reached across oceans, working in India to set up a land grant university concept, even meeting twice with Indira Ghandi, whom he describes as “down to earth.” While he worked in administration, Doris raised their two daughters and one son—one of the three have also gone into agriculture; served as president of the UT Faculty Women’s Club; taught Sunday school at Church Street United Methodist Church and volunteered with the Girl Scouts and at UT Hospital.

These days, life is a bit quieter but still hectic, scheduled around Doris’s dialysis and visits from their children. The two recently celebrated their 88th and 86th birthdays together with a dinner of “quiche, coconut cake and good wine” provided by their daughter.

Glen chose proton therapy after being diagnosed with prostate cancer earlier this year and researching the treatment compared to the other options he was offered—conventional radiation and brachytherapy.

“Ninety-nine percent of people treated with proton therapy say they would do it again,” Glen says. “With at least equal treatment effectiveness as other options but with much less likelihood of serious side effects, I opted to come here.”

Doris followed in his footsteps a few weeks later, after surgery to remove a cancerous polyp.

“I figured, if it was good for him it would be good for me,” she says—Glen adds, “Amen.”

The two spoke of their appreciation for Provision’s atmosphere and the kindness they found here, where hospitality coordinators knew them by name and therapists worked to schedule their overlapping treatments at the same time.

“They’ve been so caring and so concerned,” Doris says.

That could also be said for the support the couple has provided each other through their cancer journey.

“It’s good to have someone you love to go through the good times and the bad times,” Glen says.