Father’s Life Helps Daughter Raise Awareness About Mesothelioma

Richard Lloyd Barker Birthday Party

Melanie Ball is a student at University of Phoenix. She is the first-place winner of the Spring 2015 Asbestos.com Essay Scholarship. Read the essay from the second-place winner.

Richard Lloyd Barker was born January 18, 1948. As the oldest of six siblings, he established himself as a nurturing older brother.

The U.S. Army drafted him during the Vietnam War, but he was blessed to avoid combat. He later served as a military police officer for two years, while stationed in Germany.

After serving his country, Richard returned home to work at Jefferson Smurfit, a paper mill in Lockland, Ohio. He worked there for 22 years. He worked his way up the industrial ladder, eventually supervising more than 50 men at the company.

In September 1992, Barker started experiencing some health issues. Doctors diagnosed him with mesothelioma in October 1992 and gave him a prognosis of three months. He fought the disease beyond that prognosis like a warrior, but lost the battle after 13 months.

I am proud to call this mighty warrior my father. I was only 14 years old when my father died on November 4, 1993. He was only 45.

Losing him has been my deepest heartbreak. In the process of his dying, Dad taught me how to live. I work hard to provide for my family as he did. I strive each day of my life to be the woman my father taught me to be.

That’s why it’s so important to raise awareness about mesothelioma and asbestos.

Workers Are Not the Only Ones Affected by Asbestos

Asbestos is a toxic substance, and it is the primary cause of mesothelioma.

Currently, there are less products in the market that use asbestos, but it was once widely used, especially in the automotive and construction industries, as well as different types of mills, similar to the one where my father worked.

Many of those who suffer from mesothelioma are men because they were most likely the ones employed at the factories and mills that used products containing asbestos.

However, the families of those also are at risk for developing mesothelioma through secondhand exposure. Asbestos fibers or dust that lingered on workers’ clothes often contaminated the clothes, furniture and carpeting at their homes — placing their loved ones at risk.

There Is Hope for Mesothelioma Patients

Mesothelioma once carried a death sentence with rapid execution. But recent medical innovations and scientific research studies are signaling promising treatments that prolong life expectancy and improve quality of life.

Exploring treatment options such as radiation, chemotherapy and surgery can offer hope to the warriors who fight mesothelioma, and the support teams that stand behind them.

Cancer treatment options are always evolving into improved versions of traditional treatments or new treatments. Clinical trials are where researchers are developing or testing new therapies.

Complementary and alternative treatments are also gaining popularity among those patients who are ineligible for traditional treatments or are seeking therapies with less severe side effects. Some of these treatments options include antioxidant therapy. Other alternative therapies include acupuncture, massage therapy, spiritual healing, and meditation.

The general goal of alternative therapy is to heal a person’s immune system, giving them the natural tools necessary to combat the disease. While the effectiveness of these methods has come under scrutiny in the past, a growing number of patients are using alternative therapies in conjunction with their
more mainstream treatments. Some people use them exclusively.

Making a Case for Banning Asbestos

With the constant innovation of treatment, science is beginning to offer more and more combative measures that can assist warriors of mesothelioma in their conquest to defeat this disease.

The eradication of asbestos would undoubtedly put an end to mesothelioma. Until that day comes, when the world is free of asbestos, there are those who will die from this terrible disease.

More important for mesothelioma warriors, is the support team of family, friends, loved ones, and medical professionals prepared to go into battle with them. With the ever evolving developments in treatments for this disease, not one mesothelioma warrior dies in vain.

  1. Fuhrer, G., M.D. & Lazarus, A., M.D. (2011 January). Mesothelioma. Disease-A-Month, 57(1), pp.40-54. Retrieved from http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0011502910002105
  2. Kember, L. (2003). Lean on me: Cancer: Through a Carer's Eyes . Orlando, FL: Alpha Press Inc.
  3. Pass, H.I., Hessdorffer, M., Lake, S.E. & Lake, S.A. (2014). 100 questions & answers about mesothelioma (3rd ed.) Burlington, MA: Jones & Bartlett Learning.
  4. Povtak, T. (2012, January 4). Alexis K. | Survivor Insight Series. Retrieved from /blog/2012/01/04/mesothelioma-cant-stop-marriage-ceremony-or-love-of-eternal-optimists/
  5. Whitmer, M. (2014, April 7). Antioxidants May Neutralize Asbestos, Help Prevent Mesothelioma. Retrieved from /blog/2014/04/07/antioxidants-fight-mesothelioma/

Melanie is currently pursuing a Master's degree at the University of the Cumberlands. She has a Bachelor of Science in psychology from the University of Phoenix. Her father was diagnosed with mesothelioma in 1992. She is dedicated to writing about her unique experience with the rare disease.

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