The nightmare of loving a smoker who fails to quit
Added: (Sun Jul 30 2006)
Josh's Aunt Donna had just celebrated her 39th birthday before dying of lung cancer. "She is the spitting image of a granddaughter she will never know," laments Josh. His Aunt's story is shared at WhyQuit.com, Google's third ranked "quit smoking" destination.
Jane Kurecki and Char were best friends and smoking buddies. They stood together as Char, age 33, was told she had lung cancer and just 3 to 6 months to live. "What about my kids?" "What are my kids going to do without me," Jane recalls Char asking? Grasping at straws Char asked the doctor, "So, if I quit smoking, will I get better?" The cancer was extremely advanced.
"People say it's never too late to quit smoking. Well, it was too late," warns Jane. "Her whole life she had aspired to be a size 3, and that was going to be big. She was a great friend, and also a great mother. She left 3 beautiful children."
WhyQuit allows smokers to peek into tomorrow. It encourages them to read further and explore the sickness residing inside a mind willing to trade life itself for one chemical -- nicotine. Smoking claims half of adult smokers, one-quarter of all smokers during middle-age. It is their stories that WhyQuit shares in tragic abundance.
Tonya Church watched her 42-year-old father die a horrible lung cancer death. "I have always been a daddy's girl," says Tonya. "My Dad had smoked since he was 13 and never thought about quitting. He was too busy with life." "I've seen things throughout my father's fight that no child should have to endure. It's not fair and could have been prevented."
Amy Berkshire shares how she lost her mother, a heavy smoker, at age 47 to a massive heart attack, just five weeks after the death of her mom's father from lung cancer. "She was going to quit several times in her life, but something always came up to make her life 'stressful,'" recalls Amy. Until the end she found excuses, including her own father's death. "Anyway, she did quit smoking when the stress was gone. She also missed the birth of her second grandchild three days after her death."
Debra LaBelle tells of the death of her sister, a smoker since age 9. According to Debra the worst part of all was that "Sharon knew that she had done it to herself. Sharon did not want to die! But she did due to her cigarette smoking, she basically killed herself and now her family is lost without her."
Melinda Brockett was a former Schnook helicopter pilot, medic, Gulf War veteran, officer in the Army Reserves and then a nurse. A twenty-year smoker who contracted lung cancer, she was only 39 when she passed. "Such a beautiful person yet so addicted to cigarettes," recalls her loving sister Sandy. "Melinda's son is now eighteen and he misses his mother desperately. We all miss her so much!"
Cammy describes her brother Sonny as "a true man's man" who loved darts, auto racing and lived with a Marlboro Red hanging from his lips. One winter, Sonny's voice became hoarse but we never thought much about it until a chest x-ray found lung cancer. "Sonny just couldn't believe it! None of us could! He started on chemo and radiation right away and things were going ok," says Cammy.
"Well, believe it or not, Sonny was sneaking smokes!!! Unbelievable, I know! Bless his heart, he was an addict!," says Cammy. "He couldn't stop. Then one day, five months later, Sonny had a pulmonary hemorrhage in his lung and bled to death on the bathroom floor all alone. That day a piece of me died along with Sonny." He was 45.
"We could never convince my big brother, Fred, to quit smoking," says his sister Abby Brody. "We badgered him constantly, complained it was killing him and making us sick. We never imagined it would, in fact, kill him at the age of 43, at the end of the most wrenching, sorrowful year of our lives."
Jolene Prince lost her dad Robert to lung cancer. "My father smoked 3 packs a day until the day he died. He started young, 13ish I believe. He was only 41 when he passed. He left a loving wife, two kids and a grandchild."
Debbie Williams was a life-long smoker until she passed away from lung cancer at age 43. According to her sister Kelly, "she left behind 4 wonderful children (ages ranging from 7-25), 2 granddaughters and a family who misses her every single day." "Debbie, not having you with me leaves an enormous void in my life that will never be filled. I am thankful for the time we had together and take comfort in knowing that you are at peace. I love and miss you!"
Bryan Lee Curtis' message was the first shared at WhyQuit, in July 1999. It is an extremely graphic story showing how quickly small cell lung cancer can ravage a 34-year-old body. Readers meet Bryan's son, Bryan Jr., and his widow Bobbie. Bobbie recounts Bryan Jr.'s fourth Christmas, after his dad had been dead for a year and a half. "He had to go outside and show his dad what he got for Christmas," says Bobbie. "That really tore me up."
One of WhyQuit's most inspiring stories is a first-hand account by Kim Genovy, a 44-year-old whose lung cancer eventually spread to her brain. A member of WhyQuit's quit smoking forum (Freedom from Tobacco), Kim stood beside struggling new quitters while reminding them of the consequences of relapse and defeat. "Believe me everyone, withdrawal was and is so much easier than this 2-year cancer battle I have been fighting. The craves disappeared, the cancer hasn't."
Noni Glykos was a 32-year-old Camel smoker who had just given birth to first child when told that she had lung cancer and a few months to live. Her story is shared in series of photographs. Visitors can watch a video clip of Noni's 33rd birthday party, a birthday that everyone present knew was her last.
"As a radiation oncologist, I treat patients with lung cancer every day," says Dr. Maria Werner-Wasik. "One of them is a 31 year old woman now receiving palliative (temporizing) treatment for her widespread small cell lung cancer compressing blood vessels in her chest and making her very short of breath. She has preschool children at home. She did not smoke very much but had started young. When I look at her in the waiting room she appears like a teenager herself."
"I endorse WhyQuit's message," says Dr. Werner-Wasik. "The idea of showing, publicly, people dying of lung cancer to deter others from doing so may be repulsive to some, but I support it." People who do not see those patients find it hard to believe that cancer can strike them personally. If "Saving Private Ryan" can show blood pouring from the intestines and film severed extremities on the battlefield to show the truth about war, so can we show people suffering from cancer, who are willing to share their experience."
Apart form sharing a tiny sampling of an estimated 5 million annual tobacco deaths, WhyQuit offers the largest online library of free original quit smoking articles. By far the site's most popular offering is "Never Take Another Puff," a free, 149 page PDF quit smoking book by Joel Spitzer of Chicago, one of the world's leading nicotine dependency recovery counselors, educators and facilitators.
Central to Spitzer's lessons is that nicotine dependency is a "true chemical addiction" in every sense of the term. He teaches that a quitter can no more handle one puff of nicotine than a recovering alcoholic can handle a sip -- that quitting truly is an all or nothing proposition.
"Never Take Another Puff" is a collection of 95 short quitting articles. Lessons range from minimizing blood-sugar swing symptoms (such as an inability to concentrate), adoption of a "one day at a time" recovery philosophy, understanding smoking triggers, overcoming conscious fixation, dealing with the emotional loss, relapse prevention and minimizing weight gain.
Spitzer boils it down to just one guiding principle that eventually determines the outcome for all ... no nicotine just one day at a time, Never Take Another Puff!