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  Queen Lori: How I Quit Smoking

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All contents © 2011
by Brian and
Lori Ann Curley
First, the story with a sad ending...

    My father was a lifelong smoker, who probably started smoking in his teens or even earlier. Back in the 1950s, cigarette commercials were done by doctors because the perils of smoking were unknown. No one knew the connection between smoking and lung cancer, and the perils of second hand smoke weren't discovered until 1987 when I was in my teens.  
    Even after the negative affects of smoking were learned, my beloved Poppy was so addicted he couldn't quit. He couldn't quit after all four of his children were born; he couldn't quit in 1987 after he learned that his lungs were at about 30% capacity; he couldn't quit after his first heart attack and first angioplasty in 1989; he couldn't quit after more heart attacks and subsequent bypass surgery. He couldn't quit after he was diagnosed with diabetes II.  
    Poppy couldn't quit smoking after Mary, his wife since August 1, 1959, was diagnosed with esophageal cancer in 2002.
    My mother went through chemo, radiation, and surgery to remove her cancerous esophagus and rebuild a new one out of her stomach and intestines. Recovery in the hospital took six weeks. The side effect of the surgery was a gastric bypass, and by the end of 2003 she dropped almost half her weight. We celebrated their retirement and Mum conquering cancer with a big party.
    But Poppy still couldn't quit smoking. Sometimes he'd go outside or to the basement to smoke, but not always.
    During a routine follow-up in the summer of 2006, the oncologist found a spot on Mum's lung. She had surgery on my birthday at the end of summer to remove it, and went through another round of chemo every month for the rest of the year.
    Poppy still couldn't quit smoking.
    When Mum had problems falling at the end of the year and the beginning of 2007, her doctor canceled her chemo and ordered an MRI. That's when the brain tumor was discovered. At the same time, my father's diabetes took a turn for the worse, and he lost his big toe on his right foot. While he was in the hospital, Mum and I cleaned out his clothes of all his cigarettes. We found six packs of cigarettes and just as many lighters.  
    At the end of January, Mum had surgery to remove her latest tumor. She had to have radiation therapy to her brain to give her a fighting chance of beating the cancer. Between the brain tumor, brain surgery, and radiation therapy, my mother quickly faded from the strong woman she was and became someone who needed help getting up from bed and into a chair.  
    Because of the stress, Poppy smoked more than ever.  
    Throughout the summer of 2007, both Mom and Dad were in and out of the hospital or nursing homes. In October, Poppy lost his right leg from below the knee, and Mum was placed in hospice for respite care. Then one day, she went non-verbal. It's believed she had a stroke. The doctors advised us to keep her in hospice for end-of-life care and gave her anywhere from weeks to days to live. Poppy couldn't bear this news, and my brother Tom had to take him back to the hospital.
    My mother died on the morning of Friday, November 2, 2007. While Tom was dealing with the arrangements, Poppy had another cardiac crisis, saying "I want to go to Mary. I want to be with Mary." No one had the chance to tell him his wife was dead, but something inside him knew.  
    On Saturday the third, Tom polled our siblings about whether or not we should put a "Do Not Resuscitate" (DNR) order on Dad. I was the only one who voted yes because I knew we were in a tug-of-war with Mum, and we were going to lose. Our parents were married over 48 years, and being the youngest, I was the one who witnessed them going out on dates and falling in love again as they approached their empty nest years. My siblings couldn't let go yet, and I understood their decision even if I didn't agree with it. That night, Dad had another heart attack, and my siblings finally realized what I had earlier in the day, so they placed the DNR order.  
    On Monday, November 5th, my father was coherent enough to be told he was a widower. By Wednesday he told his priest that he wanted the DNR order, and he was transferred to the hospital's hospice unit. The following Monday he told Tom's pastor "This is it." Poppy died on the morning of Wednesday, November 14, 2007.
    We delayed Mum's funeral hoping that Poppy could be there, too, and he was - in a casket next to hers. We buried them together on Friday, November 16, 2007. Poppy was 68 years old;  Mum was 66.  Too young for both of them.  
    If you continue to smoke thinking, "It's my life"; realize that smoking may not kill just you, but someone you love.  

The story with the happy ending...

    I don't recall the exact date, but it was mid-October 1989 that I quit smoking.
    I smoked my first cigarette when I was fourteen and a freshman in high school in the Fall of 1983. My friends were so funny in their sincere anti-peer pressure, "Lori, you don't have to smoke just because we are." I was curious, so I tried one. Of course, I coughed, but it wasn't that horrendous.
    The stress of high school was really getting to me as an upperclassman, and I started smoking regularly. I quit before I graduated in May 1987.
    Then in college, I pledged a co-ed fraternity. That combined with an awful French professor was stressful enough to start me smoking again in the Fall of 1987.
    In the summer of 1988, back living with my parents, my father caught me smoking. In one of his strokes of pure wisdom, he simply said to me, "Trust me; this is a habit you do not want." That's all he ever said to me on the topic, but it wasn't enough to make me quit for good.
    Back at college in the fall of 1989, I was dating this guy. He wasn't a boyfriend, just a guy I was dating; but he said to me, "Either the cigarettes go, or I do." I really wanted to quit, and this was the catalyst I needed. I gave my last cigarette to my dorm room roommate in an attempt to kill the bigot, and I quit smoking.
    I used two techniques: bubblegum and the telephone. I chewed a lot of Trident Sugarless Bubblegum to replace the cigarettes. When I felt like having a cigarette, I called one of my friends. They all knew why I was calling more often and supported and helped me in my endeavor. One even went so far as to go grocery shopping with me to insure I didn't buy cigarettes.
    I know I'm feeling stressed when I say, "Days like this when I wish I didn't quit smoking.", but I haven't smoked anything since mid-October 1989, even when my parents died (I craved chocolate and will be forever grateful for the friend who sent me two boxes of Godiva). I especially miss cigars because they smelled and tasted so good, but I enjoy them only by sniffing, not smoking them.
    Oh, and that guy I was dating who persuaded me to quit smoking? He and I have been married since July of 1991. I think I made the right decision, don't you?

    "Quitting smoking is easy. I've done it a thousand times." -Mark Twain

In Wisconsin?  The Quit Line can help.
Click for advice on how to quit smoking.