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
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.
the end of January, Mum had surgery to remove her latest
tumor. She had to have radiation therapy to her brain to give her
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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."
In Wisconsin? The Quit Line
Click for advice on how to quit smoking.