University of Alabama sports announcer diagnosed with mesothelioma; he vows, "I won't let this get the best of me!"
Roy McAllister was born on April 23, 1928 in Dundee, Florida. Roy had few memories of his early childhood in Dundee and fewer memories of his father. His parents divorced when he was four years old; his father later died of tuberculosis at age thirty-seven. What little Roy did remember of his father was told to him by his family. He remembered his father as an "uneducated farmer" who picked and packed oranges in Florida during the Depression; dug graves for a dollar; and worked briefly as a coal miner. After his parent's divorce, his mother remarried and the family moved to Tuscaloosa, Alabama, where Roy spent most of his childhood. Upon graduating from high school, Roy went to the University of Alabama ("UA").
Roy left the UA a few credits shy of his Bachelor's Degree to join the Air Force in September 1946. Roy entered the Air Force just before World War II ended and right after all the major fighting occurred. He was stationed in San Antonio, Texas, as a clerk. He spent the majority of his time in the orderly room, where he was responsible for the morning report, mail, and supplies. It was also Roy's duty to keep track of the names and numbers of the six hundred and fifty people in his squadron.
Near the end of his service, in 1948, Roy became sergeant. Roy was honorably discharged from the United States Air Force in March 1948.
Roy loses his first wife to breast cancer but Roy remains a believer in love.
In 1948, Roy married Zedell Ward, a nurse at San Antonio Baptist Hospital. They were married twenty-five years when Zedell developed breast cancer. Unfortunately, at the age of 46, the cancer mestasized and she died on February 23, 1973. Roy had four sons, two of which were living at home.
About a year after Zedell's death, Roy was introduced to Dorothy, whom he said, "he had a lot in common with." He quickly realized that they had "a lot of life to share together." They were married on April 19, 1975.
Roy's persistence enables him to receive his Bachelor of Arts
After Roy came out of the Air Force he went back to University of Alabama where it took him nearly four years to complete his degree. He said, "I finished school in 1950 but I did not receive my degree until 1954 because I lacked three hours. I transferred from engineering school to arts and sciences and I lost thirty hours in the process." Nevertheless, Roy persevered and decided to fulfill his requirements.
For nearly seven years following graduation, Roy worked in college radio broadcasting. In 1955, he became sports director and program manager for the radio station at University of Alabama announcing at their basketball games.
Roy works as editor for the employee magazine at Chemstrand Corporation
Roy worked as a radio announcer for three seasons before he began working for Chemstrand Corporation, a plant in Decatur, Alabama. Chemstrand was a chemical fiber manufacturing company which was jointly owned by Monsanto Chemical and American Visco Corporation.
Roy was hired as editor of the company employee magazine. The company magazine was published every two weeks and ranged from eight to twenty-four pages. Over the years, Roy assumed greater responsibility. He became the community relations representative for recreation. With a budget of a quarter million dollars, Roy had the huge task of administering all press releases, interviews of plant officials, and tours with colleges, schools and civic clubs.
"If you went to the boiler house you had to breathe what was there or you stayed out of the boiler house!"
Using acrolein, Chemstrand manufactured apparel and other domestic products. As the plant expanded during the 1970's to over 800 acres, more products were added including yarn, tires, carpets and drapes. Roy recounted, "There were a series of buildings connected by pipes of all sizes and all shapes carrying gas, chemicals of various type and heated water which was used as a raw material in the processes." One of those huge buildings housed the boilers. As recreation director, Roy remembered that in the first five years as editor of the magazine he was "in and out of [the boiler room] twice a week." He remembered, "old pipes being ripped out [and] insulation [being] ripped off." Roy was told that there was asbestos there, but Roy explained, "Well, I enjoyed breathing every day. If you went to boiler house, you had to breathe what was there or you stayed out of the boiler house."
Roy loved giving tours
Roy absolutely loved his job. Most of all he loved giving tours and speeches because it gave him an opportunity to meet and talk with people. Roy was especially happy to help children, "It did us a lot of good especially with the schoolteachers who were talking to the children about their future, encouraging them to study hard so they could graduate and maybe get a job at Chemstrand." All the tours visited the boiler house. He recounted, "according to the needs of the group or their desires, we entered particular buildings for an up-close look at what was going on in the process," especially during periods of heavy construction. As Roy describes, "[the company] was very pleased to get as many people in the plant as we could to see what was going on."
Roy retires and works as an consultant for the company
After Roy retired, he became a consultant to the company. Roy developed the company's first retirement program. He would meet with employees over fifty and their spouses and discuss their retirement options. Soon, however, the job became "too much work;" Roy wanted to spend more time with his family during his retirement. Roy and his wife decided to move to Jefferson County, closer to their grandchildren. He spent most of his time in Jefferson County helping chaperon his grandkids to and from piano recitals, baseball and basketball games. As his grandchildren matured and moved away from Jefferson County, Roy and Dorothy traveled to see them.
Roy discovers mesothelioma
In Fall, 1997, while at a UA football game, Roy noticed that he was too tired to enjoy the first quarter. He was having difficulty breathing and he could not make it up the bleachers without becoming winded. After x-rays revealed fluid in Roy's lungs, his doctors later recommended that he see a pulmonary specialist. Doctors at Carroway Methodist Medical Center recommend Roy undergo a thoractomy to drain the fluid from his lungs. The experience was extremely painful to Roy and, although it alleviate some pain and pressure in his lungs, the fluid soon filled his lungs again. After a second draining, his doctors suspected that Roy may have mesothelioma. Roy underwent a biopsy in February 1998 to confirm their suspicions. The biopsy verified Roy had malignant mesothelioma.
That same month, Roy had a pleurodesis, a procedure to prevent the fluid from returning to his lungs. After the procedure, the doctors advised he had a "short time to live." The news hit Roy hard.
Roy had suffered from cancer before. In 1993, he was diagnosed with prostate cancer. His doctors removed the tumor but the cancer recurred and Roy had to undergo thirty-four radiation treatments before the cancer went into remission. Roy never expected to have cancer again, especially an incurable cancer like mesothelioma.
Roy endures pain due to his mesothelioma
Roy used an oxygen tank to help him breath post-operatively. Roy called his oxygen tank "his lifeline." To quell the pain, Roy took morphine and codeine. Roy experienced side effects from the medication including dry mouth and loss of appetite. Roy had to take artificial saliva to aid in routine bodily functions. Roy had difficulty sleeping on his right side due to the severe tumor that developed. His life had changed for the worse.
Before being diagnosed with mesothelioma, Roy would exercise at his church facilities. He enjoyed riding bicycles and lifting weights. On the weekends, he played golf with his sons. He called golf, "my number one exercise." He even began to teaching his grandkids how to golf. Post-diagnosis, even the most simple tasks became too difficult to perform. Roy had a woodworking shop but the sawdust from the shop irritated his right lung. Roy was unable to attend church. Roy said, "I am a Christian and I feel like I should be in the house of worshipbut I am not able to." Though not at church, Roy let his faith guide him. His faith had taught him not to be afraid of death, "Being a Christian, I have no fear of dying. But it does aggravate me that I'm going [to leave] my wife, my sons, my grandchildren..."
Roy makes a choice to live and enjoy every breath he takes
After a courageous six year battle Roy McAllister died of mesothelioma on August 31, 2003.