Weighty Matters

Just another WordPress.com site

Great American Smokeout

on November 15, 2012

I just heard that today is the annual Great American Smokeout — the national day to encourage smokers to quit.  I’m not going to preach at those of you who smoke.  I’m also not going to judge.  God knows I spent 53 years in the grips of an eating disorder, wrecking my health with obesity.  I have no room to judge.

I am, however, going to tell you a story about a wonderful woman.  This woman was a sweet, loving, compassionate, fun, caring darling.  Everyone who knew her loved her and she had a gift for loving them back and making everyone feel special.

She was born in 1925 and when she was in her late teens and 20s, the world didn’t really understand how horrible cigarettes are, the damage that smoking them does to our bodies, and the diseases and conditions that smoking can cause.

This woman, like most of her contemporaries, smoked for decades.  Oh, as time went on and we learned more about the health risks of nicotine, tar and the other nasty crap in cigarettes, she tried several times to quit.  She’d have brief periods of success but always went back.  In the 1970s, she developed peripheral vascular disease.  Plaque built up in her leg arteries and it hurt her to walk distances and began to impact her ability to play tennis — an activity that she loved and participated in several days a week.  She eventually had to have bypass surgery on her legs.

She was a beautiful woman but smoking took a toll.  Her skin began to thin.  Between that and the blood thinner medicine she needed to take to fight the plaque build up in her legs, if she even slightly bumped her leg, the skin would tear and she would profusely bleed.  She’d bruise on almost a thought.

But this wasn’t the worst of it.  Back in the early-to-mid 1990s, she actually managed to quit smoking for a few years.  Unfortunately, it was too late.  In 1997, she developed a cough that wouldn’t quit.  She thought it was a cold that developed into bronchitis.  I remember telling her that she needed to see a doctor and get treated so it didn’t progress into pneumonia.  A week later I got a call from my brother.  Mom had called him from Florida.  She’d begun to cough up blood and was at the hospital.

I flew down the next morning.  Within a couple of days of testing, we learned that she had a malignant tumor in her lung — a squamos cell carcinoma.  Ten days later, when she went to the hospital to get the port put in for chemotherapy, she suffered a stroke.  Her carotid arteries were severely clogged.  They “rotored” them out.  The stroke left her aphasic.  She had trouble sometimes connecting what she wanted to say in her mind with the actual words.  It also cut her vision field off to the right.  That quickly she went from a completely independent woman to one who could no longer drive her car and needed physical therapy to build up her muscle and motor skills.

This was all in January of 1998.  Over the next several months, amid the chemotherapy treatments and radiation therapy, she suffered one or two additional strokes and developed a seizure disorder that required a cocktail of medications.  We made seven or eight emergency trips to the E.R., all of which required additional hospitalizations.  She spent six weeks in the rehab facility getting back on her feet from a stroke.

We learned in August that the treatments had worked and the tumor in her lung was gone!  This news gave us great hope and we knew we could deal with everything else, if she could continue to live cancer free.

In September, the doctors discovered a tumor in her brain.  We were going to try a then-new treatment of pinpoint precision radiation.  Before that could happen, Mom’s body had had enough and different systems began to slow.

As difficult as it was to accept, we knew that there was truly nothing more that could be done that would save her life or prolong it with quality.  We had to make the shift to providing her with as much quality of life as possible while easing her through the last months of her life.

My darling, sweet, wonderful mother died on November 13, 1998 at age 73.  There has not been a day since that I haven’t thought of her with love and missed her.  I’m crying now as I type.   You could say that she died from cancer and strokes.  I say Mom died has a result of a 50 year addiction to cigarettes.  Every thing that she experienced was a result of smoking.

So that’s the story.  If you smoke, I hope that you will consider quitting.  As difficult as it is, it’s possible.  I can testify to that.  I started when I was 16 years old.  This year marked the 26th anniversary of the day I quit.  I have never once picked up a cigarette since.  There are a lot of tools and programs that can help.  For the sake of your health, and the sake of the people who love you and will miss you if you die, please quit.

6 responses to “Great American Smokeout

  1. lunarmom says:

    I have the answer. Well, it was the answer for me. I quit smoking just over a year ago, by reading a book. It was NOT difficult, and let me tell you, I was ADDICTED in the truest sense (been smoking since I was about 14, with only breaks when I was pregnant/nursing, but then I went right back).

    The Easy Way” by Allen Carr. It’s not a program, it’s not a product, you don’t need a doctor or any money. It’s a book. And pretty much all libraries carry it, so that makes it free to anyone who truly wants to live without smoking.

    I know, I sound like a fanatic, but it really works. And it IS easy. And if it saves someone’s life, I can live with being called names or thought of as crazy.

  2. Martha Andrews says:

    So many memories came flooding back…. made me cry too. ❤ Your mom was so lucky and so blessed to have you there for her, Mary, and she knew it.

  3. Mary Stella says:

    Skye, as you know, it’s never easy to become the primary caregiver for a parent. I wouldn’t have ceded the job to anyone else. I was lucky in that I was running my own freelance company and not working at a 9 to 5 job anywhere so I could take care of her. Deb, I hope your stepdaughter quits again Karen, I’m sorry for your family and for anyone who is cheated of time spent with someone because cancer takes their life.

  4. I know you still miss her every damn day. I’m so sorry.

    Lung cancer took my mother-in-law before I ever really got to know her and cheated her from getting to know and love her grandchildren. Still and always will make me sad.

  5. So sorry–what a poignant story. One which I intend to share with my 30 YO step-daughter, who finally quit almost a year ago, and then took it up again when her job got stressful.

    I smoked when I was younger for a few years–it is incredibly addictive. But so glad I quit when I did.

    Skye, I didn’t realize that was what killed your mom. So sorry. *hugs* to you both!

  6. Skye says:

    Oh, Mary, my heart goes out to you. How difficult that must have been to deal with all that. I’m so glad that you were able to quit. My mom quit when she was about 50, yet she died of lung cancer 20 years later, which they attributed to her smoking. The longer a person smokes, the greater the toll it takes. Thank you for telling your story.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s