Paul's Heart

Life As A Dad, And A Survivor

If I Had Only Known…

Growing up, I had this uncle with a very warped sense of humor. Back in the 60’s and 70’s no doubt we were all exposed to the “they will do it just once” and our parents let us find things out on our own, such as touching the burner on a stove when it was hot. The thought being that the really smart ones would learn from that scorching mistake in judgement.

Around eight years of age, I pondered what would happen if I held on to the prongs of an electrical cord and plugged it into the wall. My uncle told me he did not know and I should try it if I was curious. After all, I did know that the cord was connected to a lamp, so I knew it could turn the lamp on. And then of course there was Uncle Fester on the TV who could light up a bulb by just sticking it in his mouth.

Fortunately, there was nothing in the path of my tragectory as I was thrown backwards from the jolt of 110 volts going through my hand. I hated that uncle ever since. He could have just said “no” and in theory I would have listened.

Then why is it, that as adults, we have such a hard time, knowing better with our judgements if we are to guide our younger family members. A patient recently diagnosed with lung cancer seemed genuinely shocked to find out, when asking the doctor what could have caused the lung cancer, that the answer was smoking. The patient wanted to present any other kind of explaination. Major denial.

My generation had the subject “Health” in school. And during the elementary years, a good portion of the class was committed to “smoking”. Looking back, it was really a harsh class. As part of the demonstration, an actual, preserved lung was displayed, that was riddled with emphasema. It was awful. Compared to the healthy lung which was not black and hardened, clearly the message was to get to the children, and then the hope was that the children would convince their family members to quit. Emphasema, COPD, and lung cancer… three major reasons to never start smoking, or to quit if you can.

And that is the tricky part, if you can. Cigarettes are one of the most addicting habits one can ever be trapped with, physically addicting and the cigarette companies know that. So, when someone has been smoking for decades, is most likely going to be unable to quit, or restart. And no matter who brings the message home, that person is practically powerless to do anything about it.

I did come home from elementary school one year, following the anti-smoking campaign lesson. And I begged both my mother and father to quit, and why. I got several reasons why they could not, one of which was, “nothing will happen to me”. And that is what happens to people when they make that choice to start smoking. They do not believe that they will be the ones to get cancer.

Funny… I thought the same thing too. But no one knows what caused my Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. With lung cancer, it is usually an obvious answer.

It is sad really, to hear these words from someone who has just been diagnosed with lung cancer, “If I had only known…” I guarantee both my parents knew, but just as I held onto the prongs of the cord, I did not listen.

It is a horrible thing to watch anyone die. But even worse when it is from something that could have been prevented. And the sad thing is, there are those in my life, that my children will see smoking, and feel sorrow for them, because their grandfather is battling lung cancer from smoking. And that is what they will remember about him, and worry about anyone else that is smoking.

Smoking is not just a bad habit, it is a deadly habit. If you do not smoke, do not start. If you do smoke, quit now.

And here are a few other things I can let you know now, you can prevent later:
Sun burns skin – wear sunblock
Fast Food burgers – not good for your cholesterol
Clean hands – less germs spread
Reality TV… not very real

Now you know.

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