'He'd be proud of what I'm doing'
BANCROFT, W.Va. -- Richard Owen Dorsey would be embarrassed seeing his picture on banners and fliers meant to raise awareness about mesothelioma, his daughter said.
"But he'd be proud of what I'm doing," said Missy Dorsey Bowles. "He knows, once I start something, you can't stop me."
Stopping isn't something Bowles has even considered. With an annual event, now in its third year, she's raised thousands of dollars for mesothelioma research -- the asbestos related cancer that took her father's life.
Bowles, 37, can recall the exact date her father started feeling sick, the day he was diagnosed and the short time later when he died at age 65. It all happened within eight months.
"When he was diagnosed, he said, 'I've never been around asbestos'," Bowles recalled, "but once we started thinking about it, he had."
Dorsey had worked for Union Carbide, FMC and the water company in the early 1970s, according to his daughter.
"He dug up and drilled on all those old water pipes that had asbestos, with no protection on," she said.
Her father's mesothelioma diagnosis came on June 13, 2008, after dozens of tests ruled out other possible problems.
"When the doctor said it was meso, all I knew about it was that there wasn't a cure and that I had seen a lot of commercials about it on TV," Bowles said.
The next month, on July 9, he passed away.
"When you have a new baby and you're fighting with losing your dad, you think, 'Oh my God, I have to do something'," said Bowles, who gave birth to her son earlier that year. "I had attended a walk for children with cancer and thought that was something I could do.
"But I couldn't just stop at the walk," she said with a laugh.
Her event, "ROD's Benefit for Meso," a 5K walk this Saturday in Eleanor, also will be open to runners this year. The event features a gospel sing, catered lunch, a silent auction and raffle prizes.
The letters "ROD" are Bowles' father's initials, but she says they also stand for "Remember Our Dad."
The first year of the benefit, about 80 people attended. Last year, about 100 came.
"I'm hoping for 150 this year," Bowles said.
The event has been a good distraction for her, who still tears up when talking about her father.
"I'll meet people who have meso and be able to tell them about where good doctors are and give them advice from what I've learned," she said. "My dad was the type of person who would give somebody the shirt off his back. He can't be here to help people, but I can."
During this year's legislative session, Bowles and her mother approached Delegate Brady Paxton, D-Putnam, about having a statewide day dedicated to mesothelioma. Bowles serves as an ambassador for the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation, which encourages participants to reach out to their state and local governments.
On Sept. 26, West Virginia will celebrate Mesothelioma Awareness Day thanks to Bowles efforts.
"It's showing up in more and more people now, because it stays in your body for 20 to 50 years before you know you have it," Bowles said.
Now, though, because of research efforts, more information is known about the cancer.
"Since daddy passed, I've heard of people living seven or eight years with the disease," Bowles said. "I wish no other daddy's girl would lose their father to this."
For more information about the benefit, go here.
Reach Kate White at email@example.com or 304-348-1723.