Joe Dorough, 68, Dardenne Prairie, Missouri
Joe Dorough knows what it feels like to get a second and third chance in life, and he’s making the most of it.
The 68-year-old retired Teamster started bowling at age of ten and it became his favorite activity. “I did it regularly, except for the times when I was working evening shifts,” he recalls. “None of my buddies could bowl with me in the mornings.”
In 1992, while on a family trip to Disney World, Joe experienced excruciating pain in his feet. He was soon diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune disorder that causes painful inflammation in joints. By 2003, the aches and swelling hands forced Joe to leave the ball in the bag. His wife Donna had to tie his shoes for him, and says it was tough on both of them because their first date was to a bowling center in 1967.
In 2009, his immune system “basically went away” and he was hospitalized in isolation because of the infection risk. This time, the diagnosis was more grim – chronic lymphocytic leukemia. He was treated with injections to boost his immune system and given a chemotherapy pill, which he continues to take to ward off the disease. Once in remission, Joe’s flexibility increased and the swelling reduced, and before long his bowling desire returned. “I had resigned myself that I would never do anything again,” Joe says. “I thought, you know what, I’m not going to give up, I’m going to try at least.”
The return to the local bowling alley was successful, and he got back into the groove. His buddy Al Williams then suggested they should enter the Golden Games held in St. Charles, just across the river from St. Louis. When he won a silver medal in his age group, Joe knew his next goals were to qualify at the Missouri State Senior Games and go on to Nationals in Birmingham, which he did accomplish. His performance didn’t bring him anywhere near the podium, but that did nothing to dampen his enthusiasm.
“From where I was then to where I am now, it puts a whole new perspective on things,” he explains. “There was a time I thought I would never bowl again, so just to be able to bowl and compete again means a lot to me.” Besides the fun and satisfaction he gained while bowling singles and then doubles with his partner Mike Weaver, Joe enjoyed seeing the thousands of other active seniors around town and was inspired when he attended the Celebration of Athletes.
“I was very impressed, especially seeing there’s a lot of really older people at The Games, guys who are in their 90s and even over 100. I told my wife, ‘Well that gives me hope!’ because it was encouraging to see them still out there competing. That’s going to be me in 20 years. That is my goal.”