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Pipeline Worker And Benefactor Navigates Unexpected Turn


Walter "Don" Glover is a 72-year-old former pipeline worker from Parkersburg, West Virginia, who was diagnosed with malignant pleural mesothelioma, epithelioid type, on December 6, 2001. Don first began to complain of fatigue around January 2001. In July, his primary physician in Parkersburg, Dr. Rajan, took a chest film, which showed a suspicious spot on the left lung. Dr. Rajan scheduled a second examination for three months later to determine whether there was any growth. Don returned in October for the scheduled check-up and chest film; his new chest film showed that the nodule had tripled in size.

Don was referred to Dr. Robert Rudolph, a Parkersburg thoracic surgeon. Dr. Rudolph performed a thoracentesis on Don's left thoracic cavity on December 2 at Camden Clark Memorial Hospital in Parkersburg. He withdrew approximately one quart of brownish, blood-tinged fluid. Cytological tests were negative for any malignant process. A couple of days later, Dr. Rudolph performed a bronchoscopy and thoracoscopy with biopsy. Tissue removed during the thoracoscopy was subjected to a pathology laboratory process called immunohistochemical staining, resulting in Don's diagnosis of malignant mesothelioma, epithelioid type, on December 6.


Dr. Rudolph advised Don of the diagnosis in the hospital. Don understood immediately what he was hearing; he now had an incurable cancer and only months to live. Determined to buck the prognosis, Don met with two oncologists in the Parkersburg area to learn about treatments and assess his options. He does not relish the idea of chemotherapy of radiation, and at his age, a radical procedure such as an extra-pleural pneumonectomy would be more than his body could withstand.

Walter and one of his daughters, Donna Smith, aboard his beloved boat

For the time being, Don is relaxing and trying to eat healthy. He is short of breath and has lost much of his appetite. He has already lost ten pounds from his former 145-pound frame, and he is trying to keep as much of that as possible. Additionally, he is spending as much time as his condition permits at the Alano Unity Club, a not-for-profit sobriety club in Parkersburg that he founded in 1995, the first of its kind in the town.


When Don retired from pipeline work in 1992, he acknowledged that he was an alcoholic, and he did something about it. He has not touched alcohol since, and in the fall of 1994, conceived the idea of an alcohol-free social club in Parkersburg, where members could get together, play pool, take trips on the Ohio River and help other alcoholics trying to make it on the road of recovery. He and some others leased a building in Parkersburg, which the club eventually purchased, and opened the Alano Unity Club in March 1995. They hold twenty meetings a week for Alcoholics Anonymous and people with other addictions, perform charity work for the poor and maintain a three-quarter house for recovering addicts who have successfully graduated from a half-way house. These tenants no longer need supervision, but they have no place to go, and the lodgings are a good starting point for them to resume more regular lives. Don is only too happy to help them do it.

Walter with 3 of his 4 children. (L to R) Deborah Wilson, Donna Smith and Jane Phillips

At the same time Don is providing inspiration and opportunities for others by leading them in a substance-free life, his family is rallying around him to help him lead a life with mesothelioma. Don jokes, "When I go to see a doctor, it's a crowd." His four daughters have been a great support, as have his grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Don is a charming, talkative individual. The former union local president does not apologize for his past, but he had obviously dealt with his addiction to alcohol and was focused on helping his fellow man when he was stricken with mesothelioma, completely knocking him over. "I knew I was feeling bad," he says. "I never thought I had cancer. I just thought I was feeling tired, and the effects of getting old."

At first, Don worried about his family, he worried about treatment and he worried about paying for it. "I didn't plan on this," he quips. "Financially, I can't afford it. Mentally, the shock is wearing off, but I still can't believe this is happening to me. I'm doing my best; I only wish the tumor would respect that." As he has in the past, Don knows how important it is to get up and press on, and he does so, thinking about everything he has. "Up to this point, I've had a good life, right now, if I could just feel better. . . I got a lot of things to do, a lot of things I want to do, but with this. . . ". His voice trails off. Whether it's because he's concerned about the tumor raging inside his body, or he's thinking about the members of Alano who are winning their battles one day at a time, only Don knows. We will keep you posted on the progress of this generous and wise man

*** POSTED APRIL 24, 2002 ***

An Update -- 7/23/02

Don has not gotten out on his boat as much as he would like. With the hot air of summer, he experiences abnormal difficulty breathing and finds himself staying indoors. He suffers some pain and some tightness at night, and has begun using a Serevent inhaler every 12 hours to make breathing easier.

Don is admittedly quite tired these days, having to forego his high school reunion - Class of '48 - as well as any chances to go visit his brother. His energy just won't allow it. We will keep you posted on the progress of this generous man.

An Update -- 10/23/02

Don's oncologist advised him to "Keep doing what [he's] doing." His mesothelioma has not progressed terribly much since his diagnosis. Don stated that he has no explanation but offers that he keeps the right frame of mind and doesn't do anything to provoke his body to complain. He doesn't want to have to get to a point where he needs pain medications. He's been somewhat anemic and has had to taken what he calls "blood shots". He spends as much time as he can at the Alano Club. His biggest concern right now are the mounting medical bills and constant calls he receives from the collection agencies. The "blood shots" he referred to alone cost him $500 each. Don will have a follow-up CT Scan in January and promises to let us know the results.

An Update -- 7/18/03

Don is now undergoing dialysis treatments three times a week. He is no longer taking any chemotherapy or radiation treatments. He takes the blood thinner, coumadin for his blood. He had developed some blood clots in his right leg but that has been resolved. He is not sure what caused the clotting. He tries to keep his activities to a minimum to avoid the need for oxygen.

Don states he's just hanging in there. He is still involved with the Alano group; goes in for a short time and now just goes in once a day.

Mr. Don Glover passed away on June 13, 2004